The lower house of the Czech parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, is debating whether to approve a government resolution allowing for Czech participation in a possible war against Iraq. Earlier on Thursday, parliaments defence and security committee recommended the resolution be passed, though the defence committee is still discussing the matter. The resolution allows for United States troop movement on the territory of the Czech Republic and for the deployment and reinforcement of Czech anti-chemical troops currently based in Kuwait, but only if either the United Nations Security Council approves such an intervention or Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction. The US last week requested Czech assistance in any possible war.
Seventy of the 76 senators present in the upper chamber on Thursday voted to approve Czech participation in a possible war against Iraq. Only three of the senators present voted against the government resolution. Both houses of parliament have to approve the resolution if it is to come into effect.
Earlier the minister of defence, Jaroslav Tvrdik, told the defence and security committee the Czech Republic would like to offer the international community a team of weapons inspectors to go to Iraq. Under the proposal, 15 Czech military physicians, biologists and anti-chemical warfare experts could join the 100-strong team of inspectors already in the country. In a further statement, Mr Tvrdik said he had been informed by the Czech secret services that underworld figures with connections to Iraq could pose a threat to him and his family.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister, Zdenek Skromach, has said that his Social Democratic Party's former leader, Milos Zeman, is the only person who could defeat the Civic Democrats' Vaclav Klaus in a presidential election. Mr Klaus was the most successful of four candidates in a first presidential vote on Wednesday, but did not receive enough support to win. One wing of the Social Democrats supports Mr Zeman, and did not obey current party leader Vladimir Spidla's call to vote for the Christian Democrats' Petr Pithart after the Social Democrats' own candidate did not make it out of the first round on Wednesday. Mr Spidla and the other two parties in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, are opposed to Mr Zeman standing. The Social Democrats are to decide on Saturday on their candidate for a second presidential vote. Party leaders are to meet on Friday to discuss when such a vote will be held.
While the Freedom Union and the Christian Democrats are calling for a change in the constitution to allow for direct presidential elections, representatives of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party said on Thursday they would prefer to first try a second parliamentary vote. In a statement the Civic Democrats said they were prepared for either a second parliamentary vote or a direct election, and would support no other candidate than Vaclav Klaus.
The Staromestska and Malostranksa stations on the A (or green) line of the Prague metro reopened on Thursday morning for the first time since last August's floods caused millions of euros of damage to the city's underground system. Repairs are still being carried out on the B (or yellow) line, which should be running as normal from the middle of next month.
Friday should be cloudy with temperatures of between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius, falling to up to minus 4 degrees at night.
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