Government and opposition give full backing to USA and NATO

While mourning continues for the thousands of victims of Tuesday's devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States, attention has been focused on finding those responsible, and the likelihood of military action being taken against them. NATO has invoked the fifth article of its founding charter, which states that an attack on one member countries is an attack on all. On Thursday, the Czech government unanimously backed the Alliance's decision, affirming the Czech Republic's willingness to take military action on behalf of the US. Nick Carey has this report.

In a special session of the Czech government on Thursday, the Cabinet and Czech President Vaclav Havel gave their full support to NATO's stance on the terrorist attacks on the USA. Government spokesman Libor Roucek says that the Cabinet has promised to back its NATO allies, whatever action is taken:

"We stand fully behind our allies, that means the United States and NATO and at yesterday's Cabinet meeting we expressed our full support for them. We are willing and ready to provide any assistance that we can and whatever assistance will be needed, so we stand fully behind our allies."

As blame for the attacks seems ever more likely at this point to fall on Osama bin Laden, and that the USA will then want to take action against him and his supporters, the use of military force is expected, sooner or later. And the Czech government, says Libor Roucek, is fully ready to commit Czech forces to any such operation:

"In the event of a military operation, the Czech Republic is ready to provide its forces, whether this means a rapid reaction force, or we have, for instance, a very good anti-chemical warfare unit, we are ready to provide those forces."

And for once the vast majority of Czech politicians are in full agreement, with all the opposition parties bar the Communist Party giving unreserved support for the government's stance. Petr Necas is the Shadow Defence Minister for the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats:

"We are fully aware that this terrible attack against the United States is not just an attack against the United States, but is also an attack against us. So, this is why we are not just providing strong support for NATO, but also for the Czech government."

Support is also high amongst the opposition for the way the United States has been handling the aftermath of these terrible events:

"I would say that the US administration has been handling this issue perfectly and the level of communications between NATO partners is very strong."

A public opinion poll released on Thursday indicates that the Czech people also support the use of military force against those responsible for the attacks. A full eighty-one percent of those asked said that if NATO takes action, the Czech Republic should be part of any operation. Libor Roucek is convinced that the Czech nation is fully behind the government:

"The entire nation is fully on the side of the United States, and supports the steps taken by the US government and the Czech government. If you talk to ordinary people on the streets, they are shocked by what happened and fully express their solidarity with the American people."

And this opinion is shared wholeheartedly by Petr Necas:

"We feel that the support of our voters and the general public is very strong, so I am absolutely sure that the Czech political parties, the Czech parliament, and the Czech government will have the support of our people. Our people were touched by this terrible attack and they have a strong sense of solidarity with the people of the United States."

One aspect of the events of this week that has not gone unnoticed is the level of support that NATO has received from Russia, a nation whose opposition to the Alliance has been almost unswerving for decades. But now, Russia is offering its support for NATO action, emphasising, like the United States' NATO allies, the need for proof before any action is taken. Libor Roucek believes that the attacks have brought home the fact that countries such as Russia and the United States and the NATO member countries share a common enemy:

"I think that both NATO and Russia are in the same boat, and I hope that there will be co-operation in fighting this problem, in fighting terrorism. So if there is some positive outcome of that terrible tragedy, then I would say that it's this hope that there will be co-operation between NATO and Russia, at least when it comes to combating terrorism."