Czechs participate in fighting terrorism
By Vladimir Tax
Several times in the past month, the Czech Republic has offered assistance in the against fight global terrorism, and declared its readiness to give more than simply verbal support. On Monday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists that the Czech Republic will be sending a TU-154 civilian aircraft and crew to the United States for use in the campaign against terrorism. Government spokesman Libor Roucek:
"The Ministry of Defence is ready to provide this aeroplane within a few days. As far as the other options are concerned, for instance the rapid reaction force unit is ready to go within 24 hours. So, we are ready to help and we are willing to help and keen to help."
Prime Minister Zeman said that the United States had recently expressed interest in the plane, which could be used to transport passengers and goods between the USA and Europe as early as this week. The plane would be sent with its crew of 16 to 20 people, including a pilot and several technicians.
Czech government representatives and most of the opposition parties have expressed unreserved support for the US-led military action against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. This is perceptibly different from the stance Czech politicians took when NATO attacked Yugoslavia in 1999. Then, the Czech Republic was criticized for its somewhat cautious position - now observers agree, the country has proved to be a good ally. Political commentator Jan Urban:
"Surprisingly, both the Prime Minister and the President have made it very clear that the Czech Republic is 100 percent behind the allied effort and for the first time, the Czech Republic announced that it is ready even to deploy its troops if asked by the United States. So, this is new, this is very hopeful and I think that in this critical time, they have moved quite well so far."