Press Review

American soldiers in Iraq, photo: CTK

Iraq continues to dominate the front pages of today's papers, which look into the latest developments in the war, including the sacking of a US reporter who told Iraqi television that the United States' military plan had failed. On the domestic front, it is the Czech government's decision to terminate its contract with the Israeli firm Housing & Construction to build a new motorway that's making the headlines. The leading political story in several papers speculates on the future of Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla.

Pravo writes that the election of a new leadership at the Social Democratic Party's conference over the week-end has left Mr Spidla isolated. His deputy Stanislav Gross, who used to be considered loyal to Mr Spidla, is about to change his tactics, the paper says. In the next few months we can expect Mr Gross to try to raise his political profile, which could result in him overshadowing the prime minister. Mr Spidla now has two options. He can either improve his popularity by putting all his effort into solving the crisis within the ruling coalition or he can continue to hesitate and prevaricate and eventually be pushed overboard as a politician without a vision, the paper writes.

Lidove Noviny also looks into the future of the Social Democratic Party but chooses to focus on the reason behind Stanislav Gross' decision not to run against Mr Spidla in the party leadership elections over the week-end. The reasons why Mr Gross chose not to stand could be more sinister, says the paper, and it points to recent rumours that Mr Spidla may have incriminating secret service information about Mr Gross and his wife, involving dubious economic activities. The paper quotes a spokesman for Mr Gross vehemently denying the rumours.

American soldiers in Iraq, photo: CTK
As soon as a Czech soldier steps onto Iraqi territory without the permission of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Czech Republic will become a part of the US-led Iraqi Freedom operation, writes Hospodarske Noviny. So how can the country's field hospital enter Iraq to help in providing humanitarian aid when the government has said clearly that Prague is not part of the invading force? - asks Mlada Fronta Dnes. Although the field hospital is expected to be ready for deployment within a week, there is no resolution - either from the Czech parliament or from the UN that gives it the green light.

While Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has no objections to the hospital participating in the "Iraqi Freedom" operation, the Social Democrats have strongly rejected the idea, saying that the Czech government needed to find a different solution to the problem. According to Social Democrat deputy leader Stanislav Gross, a more acceptable way would be if the field hospital were deployed in Kuwait and would then join the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit across the Iraqi border as part of a humanitarian aid programme - a step that would not violate the Czech parliament's resolution on Iraq, writes Mlada Fronta Dnes.

"The police are losing professionals" reads another headline in Mlada Fronta Dnes. The paper refers to confusion resulting from a recent merging of two elite police units - the so-called "Small FBI" and the anti-corruption service. The lack of organisation has now resulted in important specially trained officers leaving the police force. The paper quotes the head of the state prosecution service, Marie Benesova, who says that the problem has also affected investigations. Cases are at a standstill and not moving forward, she tells the paper.