Security services gearing up for Bush visit

US President George W. Bush, photo: CTK

This time two weeks US President George Bush will be here in Prague to attend a conference on democracy and security. The American leader will also discuss the planned building of a US radar base in central Bohemia with senior Czech politicians, during a visit that is expected to last a day and a half. A number of anti-Bush protests have already been announced, and we can expect the kind of security operation rarely seen in the Czech capital.

US President George W. Bush, photo: CTK
George W. Bush is coming to Prague to make a key-note address at an international conference entitled "Democracy and Security: Core Values and Sound Policies" taking place on Tuesday, June 5. Other speakers include former Czech president Vaclav Havel and Jose Maria Aznar, ex-prime minister of Spain.

But the main reason for Mr Bush's short visit is to hold talks with the current Czech president Vaclav Klaus and the prime minister, Mirek Topolanek; their discussions will focus on Washington's plan to place a radar base in Brdy, central Bohemia, part of its global missile defence system.

A fortnight before the arrival of the US president, the Czech security services are already preparing for what will be perhaps their biggest operation since a NATO summit in 2002, which was also attended by George Bush.

The Czech side - including the police, all the intelligence services and the army - will do most of the work. But Mr Bush's own people will also be in action, as the president travels in his personal limousine accompanied by his private bodyguards. US security officials have already been in Prague scouting the locations he will visit.

President Bush - who may be accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice - will probably arrive on Monday June 4, though US officials are refusing to confirm speculation that he will spend the night at the American ambassador's residence.

One thing that is clear is that Mr Bush's visit will attract vocal opposition on the streets of the Czech capital. Anti-Bush activists have permission for demonstrations on both the Monday and Tuesday, hedging their bets because details of the president's visit are unclear. One of three locations is in front of the US Embassy, but whatever the venue the US radar base will no doubt be the focus of the protesters' ire.