The Czech Republic is prepared to send troops to southern Lebanon as
part of the Unifil UN peacekeeping force but will have to wait until a
new government is formed to determine how many soldiers can be
deployed, says deputy foreign minister Jaroslav Basta. Mr Basta was
speaking at Friday's extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in
Brussels, which was also attended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Until the country has a new government, Mr Basta says, it will only be
involved in the Israel-Lebanon conflict through humanitarian aid and
The European Union has committed itself to provide up to 7,000 of the 15,000 troops that the UN hopes to deploy to southern Lebanon to maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.
Despite the sudden failed negotiations with the Social Democrats, Czech President Vaclav Klaus still expects Civic Democrat leader and prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek to present him with a government proposal by the end of next week. The two men met briefly in the Bohemian spa town of Karlovy Vary on Friday. Mr Topolanek is expected to propose to form a caretaker government that would lead the country into early elections, despite lacking support from the Social Democrats for such a government.
The Czech Republic has not been taken off the list of possible
countries to host an anti-missile base and radar system that the United
States is hoping to station in Central Europe, the US Embassy in Prague
said on Saturday. The statement was issued in reaction to claims made
by outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in Saturday's issue of Pravo
newspaper that the United States is no longer considering the Czech
Republic as a site for its base.
A team of US experts has already inspected potential sites on Czech territory, sparking off debate over the potential threat to the Czech citizens' security and whether or not Czechs should decide on hosting the base in a referendum. Several international press reports last week also suggested that Washington plans to approach London, following mounting opposition to the base's presence in Central Europe.
President Vaclav Klaus has called a meeting with the leaders of all
parliamentary parties for next week but noted he would not intervene in
government negotiations. Speaking to journalists during a visit to an
exhibition in the town of Ceske Budejovice, Mr Klaus said the meeting with
party leaders was called because the political turns of the last few days
had taken him by surprise. But the Czech President also reiterated on
Saturday that politicians should not be held responsible for the political
deadlock that the country has been battling since the elections in early
June. Their attempts at forming a majority government are hindered by the
fact that the number of seats in the lower house of Parliament is evenly
divided between the left parties and the centre and right parties, Mr
Mr Klaus also said, with the current political situation, he cannot judge Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek for entering talks with the Social Democrats and seeking support from the Communists.
Four Czech football clubs - Sparta, Slavia, Mlada Boleslav, and Liberec have learned which teams they will face in the opening round of the UEFA CUP. The draw took place on Friday. Sparta will face the Scottish side Heart of Midlothian, Slavia the Tottenham Hotspurs, Mlada Boleslav will challenge Olympique Marseille, and Liberec will face Red Star Belgrade.
The Christian Democrats have said they are pulling out of talks on joining
a left-of-centre coalition that would have needed to rely on the support
the communists to produce a parliamentary majority. On Thursday the
party's leader Miroslav Kalousek surprised many within his own party when
he agreed to talks with the head of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek.
He in turn had jettisoned negotiations with Prime Minister designate Mirek
Topolanek. Mr Kalousek initially gained approval from his party's
leadership, but on Friday many members of his party expressed
dissatisfaction to the idea of entering a minority government relying on
On Friday, members of the party in three regions in the Czech Republic - Brno, Havirov, and Zlin - called on the party leaders to resign, while Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda told the CTK news agency that he had "never supported nor would support" the move by the leadership.
The party's decision to now scrap talks with the Social Democrats looks set to prolong a political stalemate which has lasted since the general elections ended in deadlock in June.
Preceding the latest developments, the Social Democrat and Christian Democratic parties took part in negotiations early on Friday, outlining priorities for their proposed government. Discussed were issues of church and state, as well as introducing changes to the make-up of parliament to prevent future parliamentary deadlock. Social Democrat deputy chairman Bohuslav Sobotka said that his party had agreed to a number of significant compromises. Later, Social Democrat head Jiri Paroubek - in Vienna on Friday - denied promising the Christian Democrats half the posts in any new cabinet, but did stress they should hold important posts, for example, the Interior Ministry.
Earlier, before the Christian Democrats' announcement they would pull
out of talks on a left-of-centre cabinet, Prime minister designate
Mirek Topolanek revealed that his party was prepared to form a
caretaker government to lead the country to early elections. Mr
Topolanek said that he would present his proposed minority government
to the president by the end of the next week. The prime minister
designate declined to say who would be named to the new cabinet. But,
given the developments later in the day, it is not yet clear whether
this proposal will go forward.
If Mr Topolanek does push for a minority Civic Democrat government the decision will be President Klaus' whether or not to appoint the proposed ministers. If he does, the government will then have thirty days to ask the Chamber of Deputies for a vote of confidence.
The political fallout has led the head of the Christian Democrats, Miroslav Kalousek, handing in his resignation on Friday evening. He has said that he will stay on as an MP. The developments over the last two days marked an unusual turn for Mr Kalousek, given that he repeatedly said his party would take part in no government relying on Communist Party support. But, he defended his sudden change of stance by saying it was motivated by the need to prevent the larger parties from changing the electoral system in a way that would have harmed the smaller parties, such as his own Christian Democrats.