The Chamber of Deputies voted on Friday morning to send Czech troops into a possible war against Iraq. The resolution allows for the reinforcement and deployment of Czech anti-chemical warfare troops currently based in Kuwait and for United States troop movement on the territory of the Czech Republic. It is conditional on either a United Nations Security Council mandate or Iraq using weapons of mass destruction. Last week, the United States requested Czech assistance in any possible war.
The government-sponsored resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority in the Senate on Thursday, with 70 of the 76 senators present in favour. Only three senators voted against the resolution, which needed the approval of both houses of parliament to come into effect.
The Czech Defence Minister, Jaroslav Tvrdik, said on Friday that over 100 Czech soldiers would probably be sent to Kuwait at the end of January, bringing the total number of Czech soldiers in the Persian Gulf to over 350. On Thursday, Minister Tvrdik told the Chamber of Deputies 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.
Leaders of the parties in parliament have agreed to hold a second presidential election on January 24th. A first attempt on Wednesday ended inconclusively. The Christian Democrats have announced Wednesday's candidate, Senate chairman Petr Pithart, will not be standing in the next elections. The Civic Democrats' candidate will once again be Vaclav Klaus, who won the most votes on Wednesday. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's Social Democrats are due to choose their candidate on Saturday, with some elements in the party lobbying strongly for former leader Milos Zeman.
The Czech Statistical Office has published a corrected GDP figure for the third quarter of 2002, completely changing the picture of the Czech economy. The Czech GDP from July-November grew by 2.7 percent, compared to growth of 1.9 percent in the previous quarter of 2002. Originally, the Czech Statistical Office reported GDP growth of 1.5 percent which would mean an economic slowdown. The Statistical Office had to correct the economic performance figure due to a serious mistake in export statistics.
President Vaclav Havel, who steps down on February 2 after 13 years in office, visited Berlin on Friday at the invitation of his German counterpart, Johannes Rau. Mr Rau described Mr Havel as a friend of Germany and said he would thank him for building bridges between the two countries. Besides meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and visiting the Bundestag, Mr Havel also honoured five German nationals with Czech awards. Among those honoured was former president of Germany Richard von Weizsaecker who received the Order of the White Lion, the highest Czech distinction awarded to foreigners.
The Czech tennis player Denisa Chladkova has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, after a 6:3 6:2 win over Evie Dominikovic of Australia on Friday. It is the first time she has reached the last 16 in the Australian Open, and sets up a meeting with Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Saturday has been forecast with partially cloudy skies and scattered showers around the country. Temperatures will reach a maximum of 5 degrees Celsius.
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