Czech Prime Minister: We are entering war

Prime Minister Milos Zeman is delivering his address to the nation on Czech public service TV

Tension has been mounting in Prague this past week, with rumors of impending US-led strike against terrorists confirmed last night by Czech Premier Milos Zeman. Jan Velinger reports.

According to Milos Zeman, the world may be days, perhaps even hours away from military action, in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks on the US. Yesterday saw NATO invoke it's mutual defense clause, article 5, and in the evening Mr. Zeman spoke in a specially televised address, where he outlined the Czech government's stance on the fight against international terrorism.

"The events of September 11 have divided the world into two camps. On one side we have those who respect the values of individual freedom and tolerance, on the other we have those who believe in hate, have contempt for life, and are fanatical in their support of various religions and ideologies. It is their desire to destroy those who do not conform.

The Czech Republic must decide which side it will stand on, and it must decide not only with words, but with actions."

And it seems, the Czech Republic will take action as the possibility of a strike draws near. Mr. Zeman pledged support in the form of field hospitals, anti-chemical military units, and the expertise of the Czech Special Forces. All this in the belief that now is the time to stand fast, in a way, the premier indicated, the world did not in the years 1936 and 38, when Hitler was expanding his power. By putting recent events in an historic context, Mr. Zeman made it clear that a failure on the part of the world to react to aggressors this time, would lead to similarly disastrous results.

"That is why the Czech Republic is prepared to offer more than words, to offer action, and effective support to our allies as far as we are able, and which is in our own interests."

As tension grows, and the military begins to prepare, the premier predicted possible dissent among Czech radicals. He had a sharp message for them as well.

"I am aware that the government's decision may be unpopular with a certain sector of the public. There is no doubt there will be opposition among right-wing extremists, for whom Bin Laden is a hero. The decision will also provoke opposition among extremists of the far-Left, who pity the victims of the terrorist attacks, but believe we should negotiate with the terrorists. Negotiation with terrorists is unacceptable. One can only fight against terrorists, and their abettors. The government of the Czech Republic is not a government of extremists. Neither is it a government of cowards and in this long and difficult period the government will stand firm."