Foreign Minister offers assistance in post-war Iraq as the Czech anti-chemical unit steps up activities

Cyril Svoboda and Colin Powell, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic wants to play an active role in solving the Iraq crisis. At a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell the Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, did not offer unequivocal support for the use of force, but he did promise Czech help in rebuilding Iraq after a possible war. At the same time the Czech Republic's anti-chemical unit has stepped up its work in Kuwait.

Cyril Svoboda and Colin Powell,  photo: CTK
After talks with Colin Powell Foreign Minister Svoboda made the following comments:

"The Czech Republic is prepared to give humanitarian support and will do all it can to help find a solution, and, should it come to a war, to help rebuild Iraq. This is something that we are very clearly offering. But this isn't some kind of deal."

The Czech Republic's stance on the Iraq question has been at times unclear. One of Vaclav Havel's last gestures as president was to sign a letter expressing his support of the United States' tough line against Iraq. But the new Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has reservations regarding the use of force in Iraq stating that it should only be the last resort. The government's line is that force should only be used if a second UN resolution is passed.

Although Mr. Svoboda said that the Czech Republic is not looking to profit from a war, there is no denying that the rebuilding of Iraq would offer investment possibilities. Baghdad was a traditional market during communism, especially in the field of power generation and heavy engineering. However, it is unclear if the opportunity to participate in the possible reconstruction of Iraq hinges on the Czech Republic's active support for a US led war.

Czech troops are already in Kuwait. The Czech Republic's chemical and biological detection unit, has been stationed there since September of last year, and this week has been deployed in preparation for a possible war. Czech vehicles equipped to detect and gauge the presence of chemical or biological agents in the air are currently being put in place in the streets surrounding vital installations. Joining the almost 400 Czechs in the anti-chemical unit are also a number of Slovak anti-chemical personnel, making the joint unit the largest anti-chemical unit in the world.