Press Review

The one word in the front page headlines of all the leading Czech dailies today is "anthrax". The papers report on latest developments in the United States, but also on Czech reactions to the situation.

According to Lidove noviny, the Czech Republic would not be able to cope with a major epidemic. The country does have a good system of public health officers, but lacks laboratories. And Prague's chief public health officer, Vladimir Polanecky, says that while individual cases can be dealt with efficiently, the country is not prepared for a large-scale biological attack. Two new laboratories are to be set up shortly, which should improve the situation.

The country is very much aware of the threat of biological warfare, and the paper reports on two cases where experts were called to inspect suspicious findings in different parts of Prague. One turned out to be ordinary flour, the other some fluorescent liquid, the kind used in night clubs and bars.

Prazske noviny writes about a different sign of the fear generated by international events. People no longer want to live in tall buildings, estate agents told the paper. For some time there have been plans to construct a whole group of skyscrapers in Prague's Pankrac district - the area has been referred to as the Prague Manhattan. After September 11th the interest in apartments and office space in the area has dropped considerably and this trend is probably here to stay. Estate agents report a growing interest in very low buildings.

Today's Pravo asks how two of the youngest members of the cabinet stood up to the challenges presented by the terrorist attacks on the United States. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who is 32, and 33-year-old Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik bear the brunt of responsibility for security and other measures in the Czech Republic, and have, generally speaking, done well, says the paper.

Even the opposition Civic Democratic Party shadow defence minister has praised the cabinet, but also points to some shortcomings. Not enough has been done to calm the general public. Neither does the shadow defence minister like the dramatic measures taken to protect the Radio Free Europe building in the centre of Prague.

That building, the site of Radio Free Europe, is also dealt with in an exclusive interview with President Havel published in Mlada fronta Dnes. Mr Havel first rejected calls for the station to be moved from the centre of town; now he says it's a decision to be made by experts and he intends to leave it to them.

As for other aspects of the current situation, Vaclav Havel is worried that the reaction to the terrorist attacks on the United States will divide the world. We have to see to it, he says, that this does not develop into a battle between what some call 'different civilisations'. Islam is not a militant religion and if this should turn into a war against the Moslem or Arab world, that would be a very bad thing. We must make sure it doesn't happen, says Vaclav Havel in today's Mlada fronta Dnes.

Author: Olga Szantová
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