Czech and US presidents talked to journalists in Prague

George W. Bush and Vaclav Havel, Photo: CTK

Guests for the NATO summit are arriving in Prague, and the first of foreign presidents was George W. Bush, whose presidential special landed at Ruzyne airport on Tuesday evening. Alena Skodova reports:

President George W. Bush,  Photo: CTK
Meanwhile Prague seems to be prepared for the summit. With some 12,000 police in the streets it has been compared to a fortress and some say that it is currently the most strictly guarded place in the world. Shop owners in the centre of Prague have boarded up their shops, car showrooms have removed all their luxury models so as not to provoke violent anti-NATO protestors.

On Wednesday morning, the presidents of the Czech Republic and the United States, Vaclav Havel and George W. Bush talked to journalists.

President Bush started by appreciating the Czech Republic's role as a NATO member.

"The Czech Republic is not only a good ally, it's a great ally. I can say that at this conference because I've heard the president speak about this country's commitment to freedom and peace. And the first test of that friendship came right after September 11th. The world for our country changed after September 11th and the Czech Republic responded quickly."

He said that the United States would first consult their allies before a military strike against Iraq:

"As to Iraq, it is very important for our nations to work collectively, to see that Saddam Hussain disarms. If the collective will in the world is strong, we can achieve disarmament peacefully. However, should he choose not to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition willing to disarm him. And at that point we will consult with our friends and all nations will be able to choose whether or not they want to participate."

Naturally the American president was asked about a possible attack on Iraq, if diplomacy fails.

"If we should go to war with Iraq was my last choice, my last option. It is possible that Saddam Hussain gets a message that we are serious about disarmament and he should fully disarm as possible, and the possibility becomes more real if he understands that there is a true consequence for his failure to disarm. And there is a true consequence, a serious consequence as the UN resolution addresses."

He suggested that the Czech Republic could play an active role in a war in Iraq

George W. Bush and Vaclav Havel,  Photo: CTK
"Some countries can specialize and provide excellence and a classic example is the Czech Republic's ability to deal with biological weapons, the aftermath of a biological weapon attack. The Czech Republic is one of the very best in the world at their chemical and biological response capability."

President Havel's view in this respect is, that NATO should act as an alliance:

"I share president Bush's view that the conflict should be resolved by peaceful means. But if the need to use force arrives, I believe NATO should give a speedy consideration to its engagement in a possible conflict as an alliance. It's not only the United States, but the European part of NATO that borders to Iraq and the ability to take a joint stand could at the same time be proof of its new identity."