Paroubek threatens to stop Klaus travelling abroad if he contradicts cabinet's foreign policy

The Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, has threatened to ban President Vaclav Klaus from travelling abroad if the president contradicts the government's foreign policy. The prime minister said Mr Klaus - who is opposed to European integration and the EU constitution - was a servant of the state who should reflect the position of the cabinet, which sets foreign policy under the Czech constitution. The government approves all trips by the president in what is normally a routine decision.

Earlier this week Mr Paroubek said in an interview with London's Financial Times that the president was exceeding his constitutional powers by campaigning against the EU constitution. Ratifying the document is one of the government's key policy objectives.

Mr Klaus's party the Civic Democrats have called on the prime minister to explain his comments in the lower house. The party has likened Mr Paroubek's statement to the practices of the Communist regime, saying it was an attempt to stifle free debate on an important issue which affected all Czech citizens.

Author: Ian Willoughby