• 04/25/2003

    The Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, has discussed the post-war situation in Iraq and bilateral relations with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, in Moscow. Mr Svoboda said the Russians had been particularly interested in the Czech decision to send a military field hospital to Iraq. He also said Czech President Vaclav Klaus would be attending celebrations to mark the 300th anniversary of the foundation of St Petersburg in May, when he will also hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 04/25/2003

    President Klaus is not planning to mark his recent appointment by issuing an amnesty, his spokesman said on Friday, adding that while Mr Klaus regarded amnesties as important it would not be appropriate to issue one now. The president said before he was elected that he would not use his powers of amnesty or pardon to interfere in the legal system and frequently criticised his predecessor Vaclav Havel for doing so.

    Author: Ian Willoughby
  • 04/24/2003

    The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla and his Danish counterpart Anders Fogh Rasmussen say they oppose a plan to create the post of President of the European Union. Mr Rasmussen, visiting Prague, said he was sceptical towards the idea, proposed by the chairman of the EU Convention on the future of Europe, Valery Giscard D'Estaing. The Danish prime minister said a full-time EU president - who would represent the EU internationally and chair meetings of the EU Council of Ministers - would lead to big member states having greater power over smaller ones. Prime Minister Spidla said Czech and Danish attitudes to the future of the EU were extremely close.

    Author: Rob Cameron
  • 04/24/2003

    Meanwhile a dispute over the EU between Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and President Vaclav Klaus continued on Thursday, with Mr Svoboda again distancing himself from recent remarks made by the president. President Klaus said during last week's EU signing ceremony in Athens that his country would lose some of its sovereignty when it joins the Union, comments which were harshly criticised by Mr Svoboda. The Foreign Minister said in parliament on Thursday that equating EU membership with loss of sovereignty was the same as encouraging people not to vote in the forthcoming EU referendum. President Klaus has often been criticised for his negative comments about the European Union, which his country will join in May 2004.

    Author: Rob Cameron
  • 04/24/2003

    An assistant to Mr Havel said on Thursday that the former president had opened his new office in Prague's Vorsilska street. Mr Havel's office - where he will concentrate on reviving his writing career - is seated on the ground floor of a house belonging to Karel Schwarzenberg, his former chancellor. Mr Havel will have to finance the running of the office by himself until parliament passes a bill defining state pensions for ex- presidents.

    Author: Rob Cameron
  • 04/23/2003

    President Vaclav Klaus who is on a one day visit to neighbouring Austria has said the Czech Republic is willing to talk but not to negotiate about the issue of the Sudeten Germans' expulsion after the Second World War. Mr Klaus added that for his part, he said all in a statement to mark the March anniversary of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. At a joint press conference with Mr Klaus, the Austrian President Thomas Klestil said Austria felt the Sudeten German question had not yet been solved "in a satisfactory way". In recent years Austria has been pressing for a "gesture" by Prague over the Sudeten Germans issue. The Austrian right-wing Freedom Party also demanded formal abolition of the post-war Benes Decrees legitimising the expulsion, threatening that the Czechs would otherwise be barred from EU membership.

    Since becoming President in succession to Vaclav Havel in early March, Mr Klaus has toured the Czech Republic's neighbouring countries to stress the importance of good neighbourly relations. Austria is his fourth stop after visits to Slovakia, Poland and Germany.

  • 04/23/2003

    A part of the Czech military field hospital, which is being set up in the Iraqi city of Basra, is due to start work on Friday morning, the Czech ambassador to Kuwait Jana Hybaskova told reporters. A suitable location for the field hospital has been found and construction will start as soon as the site is cleared up. The field hospital, which will have two operating theatres and a capacity of 50 beds, should start serving the civilian population in and around Basra at the beginning of May. It has been sent to Iraq on a humanitarian mission and is not part of the US-led military operation underway in the country.

  • 04/23/2003

    An explosive device was discovered and defused near where Czech and Slovak soldiers are stationed at Camp Doha in Kuwait, Czech newspapers reported on Wednesday. The 30-centimetre long tube was discovered on Monday. A robot was employed to recover the device. Colonel Dusan Lupuljev, who commands the 400-member unit of nuclear-biochemical weapons experts, said the device may have been designed for demolition tasks.

  • 04/22/2003

    President Vaclav Klaus and Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda remain at odds following a dispute last week in which Mr Svoboda criticised the president for recent remarks on the European Union. Mr Klaus found Mr Svoboda's criticism, which came after the signing of the EU accession treaty in Athens, personally insulting, and had asked the foreign minister to Prague Castle to explain. But, after their meeting Tuesday Mr Svoboda repeated he was standing by last week's comments, in which he called the president's knowledge of the European Union 'superficial'. While saying the meeting with the president was a 'good step', Tuesday, Mr Svoboda stressed that the country's foreign policy fell within the competency of the government. At the same time Mr Klaus' spokesman, Tomas Klvana, reminded journalists that it was the Czech president's right to comment on foreign affairs matters. After the accession treaty signing last week Mr Klaus warned that EU membership would cost the Czech Republic a measure of its sovereignty, provoking the foreign minister's criticism.

    Author: Jan Velinger
  • 04/22/2003

    Two year-old Hasan Khalaf, the son of Iraqi parents whose plight recently evoked a wave of sympathy in the Czech Republic, has been admitted to hospital for treatment of cerebral palsy. The boy's illness was Mrs Khalaf's main reason for coming to the country - the family arrived last Saturday at Prague airport, with representatives of a Paediatric Hospital Ward on hand to arrange treatment for the two year old. The treatment of the child, and acceptance of the Khalaf family in the Czech Republic, caps a dramatic turn in events: Mrs Khalaf was originally refused entry - allegedly for 'security reasons', despite the fact that she had a valid visa. The original refusal sparked angry protests from human rights activists, provoking widespread criticism of the foreign police.

    Author: Jan Velinger

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