The government has unanimously approved a US request for Czech military assistance in an operation against Saddam Hussein's regime. But it remains for parliament to decide on the deployment of troops, for which the Czech Republic wants to have a United Nations mandate. As Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said, Czech units could start operating without a UN mandate only if weapons of mass destruction were used in the region.
Recently the United Stats has asked the Czech Republic to reinforce the Czech chemical warfare unit in Kuwait and to change its mandate, which is now operating within the Enduring Freedom anti-terrorist operation.
Czech President Vaclav Havel has said he supports sending Czech troops into battle against Iraq. Mr Havel, set to retire in three weeks, wants to give the Defence Ministry permission to deploy Czech soldiers - members of a chemical, biological and radiological weapons detection unit - to Iraq alongside US troops.
Both houses of parliament are to meet on Thursday and Friday in order to discuss the government's plan to add about 100 soldiers to the 250 now operating with the special unit in Kuwait, and give the unit a green light to enter Iraq or other countries, such as Israel and Turkey. Lawmakers are also being asked to extend the unit's assignment past March, when the Czech troops are due to come home.
Both houses of the Czech parliament will begin the process of electing a successor to President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday. The former playwright's second and final term will end on February 2. There are four official candidates for the post, but it is likely none of them will get enough votes in the parliament. To win in the first round the candidate needs 142 votes out of 281. Czech Television is going to broadcast Wednesday's session of Czech parliament live from Prague Castle, where all senators and MPs will meet to choose a new head of state.
After opening at 31.77 crowns per euro the Czech currency fell to an eleven-month low on Monday, when it traded at 31.90 crowns per euro. At 5 pm CET, the Czech crown closed again at 31.77 crowns per euro. Dealers and analysts agreed the crown was weakening on the soaring Czech foreign trade gaps, the year-on-year downswing in exports, and postponed privatisation projects. Another reason given was that investors had lost interest in the crown and preferred purchases of other Central European currencies such as the Polish zloty, Hungarian forint and Slovak crown.
Weather forecasters have warned that the slightly warmer weather which is expected in the following days may cause rivers to rise again in some regions of the country. Melting snow in the mountains together with rainfall in lower parts of the country could raise river levels especially in south and southeast Bohemia. The situation is made worse by ice build-ups hampering the flow of water in rivers and streams.
Tuesday is expected to be cloudy to overcast with occasional snow showers, which in lower altitudes will turn to sleet or rain. Daytime temperatures on Tuesday should range from zero to plus four degrees Celsius.
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