Press Review

Inevitably Monday's papers are full of the air strikes against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. They carry the addresses made by US president George Bush, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and leading Czech politicians. Alongside this are snapshots of Bin Laden and his Sunday statement that the Al Quaeda was behind the terrorist attack against US civilian targets.

"The first war of the 21st century has begun " says Slovo, predicting that October 7th will be remembered as an important milestone in the fight against terrorism. Mlada fronta Dnes says that there is no going back on this decision or stopping half-way. The allies must persevere in their efforts until this evil has been rooted out, the paper says.

Pravo notes that this is one of the rare occasions when Czech politicians are in complete agreement about an important issue. The general verdict is that terrorism must be fought and all Czech parliamentary parties agree that the US cannot be faulted in its response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. It would be difficult to find a government with whom the US did not hold diplomatic talks about this, Lidove noviny says.

This war will be different from the wars the world has experienced to date, says Mlada fronta Dnes. It will be fought on many fronts, not always out in the open and it may take years. There will be set-backs and sacrifices but it must be fought if we do not want to see the US tragedy repeated elsewhere, the paper says.

Some commentators speculate on what may lie ahead, citing the words of US senators about Iraqi terrorists being the next target and Usama Bin Laden's threats that Al Quaeda would seek to revenge the attacks against its bases in Afghanistan.

Radek Kohl from the Czech Institute for Foreign Affairs notes that the moment of attack against terrorist targets was chosen with perfect timing. In stage two of this operation it is important for the allies to prove that this is not an attack against Islam or against the Moslem world as Bin Laden has been trying to present it. This means giving humanitarian aid to Afghan refugees and getting a strong degree of moral support from the Arab world, Kohl says in an interview for Mlada fronta Dnes.

In the wake of Sunday's air strikes, Czech officials have attempted to quell public concern over a possible terrorist attack against Czech targets. The papers all quote President Havel's appeal to the public "to arm themselves with patience and not panic" as well as assurances from the interior minister Stanislav Gross that the country's security is not directly threatened.

Any comfort this may provide is likely to be counterbalanced by an article in Mlada fronta Dnes in which the interior minister complains that the Czech Intelligence Service is not providing the interior ministry with all the information it has pertaining to possible terrorist attacks. "The Secret Service decides what it wants to share and what not" minister Gross told the daily saying he intended to open a serious discussion about this at the next meeting of the State Security Council.

The papers say that two suspicious cases with a possible terrorist link were resolved over the weekend. Police have reportedly checked out the identities of two Arabs who were given flight training courses by Czech Airlines at the beginning of this year and found no terrorist link. Also, the incident in which a map of Frankfurt Airport and a couple of flight manuals for passenger planes which two men allegedly left in a Prague cab was cleared up when two Ukrainian pilots turned up at a local police station looking for their mislaid things.

Although, inevitably, the tone of today's papers is grave, sports commentators are beaming, thanks to the Czech football teams emphatic victory over Bulgaria which earns the Czechs a playoff tie with Belgium in the World Cup qualifying matches. " The Czechs hammer Bulgaria 6:0" read the headlines. "After the shameful results in the matches against Island and Malta we really needed this boost, the teams' captain Pavel Nedved told the papers. However, we're keeping our feet firmly on the ground. There is also plenty of praise for the under 21 team who beat their Bulgarian rivals 8:0 on Friday in the European championship qualifier.