News of Radio Prague

US tragedy - reactions

Strong words of condemnation and expressions of moral support for the people of the United States have come from Czech political leaders, the government and parliament in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The Czech Cabinet which held an emergency session on Tuesday night strongly condemned the attacks and offered to help the United States in whatever way possible. At a midnight press conference deputy prime minister Vladimir Spidla said the democratic world must unite against all forms of international terrorism. On behalf of the Czech Republic he expressed deep sympathy with the people of the United States. Health minister Bohumil Fischer said that the ministry had already contacted the United States with offers of help. There is still a great deal of confusion and it is difficult to ascertain what kind of assistance they will require, Fisher said. For the present it appears that blood donations would be valued most. Czech humanitarian organizations have also offered assistance.

A meeting of the National Security Council has been scheduled for Wednesday morning. It is to be attended by President Havel and senior Cabinet ministers.

Words of moral support for the American people have come from politicians, Church representatives and individuals.

President Vaclav Havel said he was devastated by the tragedy. "In the name of our country and all our citizens I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the relatives of the victims and I would like to assure the American people that we are on their side and are willing to help in any way possible. I see it as an attack on human freedom, as an attack on democracy and I think that it is a great warning to civilization, calling on us to mobilize to the utmost our sense of responsibility for the world we live in. Fanatics and madmen must not be allowed to hold us all hostage " the president said.

Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who is currently in hospital, expressed deep sympathy with the American people. The Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan sent a telegramme to his US counterpart Colin Powell expressing shock at the attack and condemning the perpetrators.

The cowardly attack on innocent people has been condemned by leading representatives of Catholic and Protestant churches in the Czech Republic. We are praying for the victims and the bereaved, archbishop Jan Graubner told the CTK news agency. Representatives of the Moslem community in the Czech Republic have also condemned the terrorist actions in Washington and New York, saying that terrorism was no way to resolve the world's problems.

Emergency Cabinet meeting

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has ordered a number of security measures in connection with the attacks.

Some units of the Czech armed forces have been put on full alert . Deputy Chief-of-Staff Jiri Martinek has placed the air defense and the 4th rapid deployment brigade on alert, and has increased security at military facilities.

The State Office for Nuclear Safety tightened security measures at the Czech Republic's two nuclear power stations, Temelin and Dukovany. While Temelin was shut down on Monday for a planned check up, the reactor in Dukovany can be put off line at any time.

The Czech interior ministry has tightened security around all US institutions in the Czech Republic, key buildings and international airports. Security has also been tightened around Czech diplomatic missions in the Middle East.

The US embassy in Prague has been closed until further notice for security reasons.

Economic impact of US bombings

Stocks at the Prague Stock Exchange plunged to an all-time low upon the news. The PX-50 index dropped to 340 points as all the blue-chip shares fell dramatically. All trading at the New York stock exchange has been suspended in reaction to the terrorist attacks. European stock markets are expected to be seriously affected.

Macek resignation

Miroslav Macek, deputy chairman of the centre right Civic Democratic Party has resigned in the wake of rumors that he had received a 10 million crown payment from the Austrian Erste Bank for advice which was to help it secure a stake in Ceska Sporitelna, a leading Czech bank. In a statement to the press Mr. Macek said he had broken neither the law nor the business code of ethics. "There was no clash of interests and my business activities are my own affair" he told reporters when asked to confirm the media report. Macek said the media attack had only hastened his earlier decision not to run for the post in the upcoming party elections.

Austria -Temelin

Angered by EU commissioner Gunter Verheugen's rejection of a European conference on the Czech nuclear power plant at Temelin, Austria has said there would be no conclusion to the energy chapter of the Czech- EU membership talks until all questions connected with Temelin were settled. Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel said after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting that Mr. Verheugen must have been misinformed to react as he did. Vice Chancellor Susanne Ries Passer argued that the EU commission could not overrule a resolution of the European Parliament. The opposition Social Democrats also attacked the EU commissioner, saying that his statement was a scandal and that his position as a commissioner should be questioned. Mr. Verheugen said on Monday that a European conference on Temelin was not an issue since Prague was opposed to it. The idea behind the conference is to convince the Czech government to scrap the 200 billion crown plant.

Murderer gets 12-year sentence

A Czech court has sentenced a Ukrainian national to twelve years in prison for the murder of a German tourist here in Prague. Juraj Hrihora, who stabbed the German tourist to death in a Prague restaurant two months ago, says he has no memory of what happened and has appealed the verdict.

Finally a quick look at the weather:

Wednesday should be overcast with scattered showers and day temp between 12 and 16 degs C.