Iraqi president in Prague, seeking closer ties
The Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has begun a tour of Europe, and his first port of call is the Czech Republic. This country is an ally of Iraq's post-war regime, and there are also long trade ties between the two countries, going back to the days of communism. Also Czech troops are currently in southern Iraq, helping to train the country's police force, and there are other projects in Iraq involving the Czech Republic - varying from renewing the country's cultural heritage, to rebuilding refineries. Mr Talabani has said he wants to deepen cooperation further, especially in rebuilding Iraq's devastated infrastructure, and this will be a focus of his talks with top Czech officials during his three days in Prague. Rob Cameron is following the Iraqi president during his visit, and joined me on the phone just as Mr Talabani was arriving at Prague Castle. So is it just a coincidence that Mr Talabani has started his tour of Europe here in the Czech Republic?
You're at the castle just before the talks begin. How high-profile is this visit?
"It seems pretty high-profile from what I can see now. I'm actually in the Second Courtyard of Prague Castle and the Iraqi president is about to arrive. They've just played the Iraqi national anthem and the Czech national anthem and a guard-of-honour is now accompanying the president inside the castle. The central area of the castle has been completely cut off, there are a lot of policemen around, so this visit is certainly high-profile in that sense, with all the security measures that you'd expect."
So what do you think are the main concrete issues that will be up for discussion?
The historical link between the two countries is interesting. From the days of communism there obviously are trade links that can be built on. I gather as well that this isn't Mr Talabani's first visit to the Czech Republic.
"It's not. He visited Prague in his capacity as head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That was in 2004. But this is his first visit as president. So this is an important day for both countries."