The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has expressed support for Turkey in its request for NATO assistance preceding a possible military conflict with Iraq. Speaking at a joint press conference in Paris on Thursday, the Czech foreign minister underscored the fact each NATO member state had the right to ask its allies for help if it felt it was under threat. Mr Svoboda added it was important the request had a positive response, saying it was needed to preserve NATO's "credibility", not only with member states but also with new countries invited to join last year. Mr Svoboda's French counterpart Dominique de Villepin did not comment on the statements. So far, France, Germany, and Belgium, have refused to approve NATO plans to protect Turkey in case war breaks out between the US and Iraq.
A Prague court has ruled that suspected terrorist Michael Dickson, detained in the Czech Republic in December on cigarette smuggling charges, as well as on an international arrest warrant, could legally be extradited to Germany to stand trial for a 1996 attack on British Army barracks in Germany. German authorities suspect the 38-year-old of being one of five members in an IRA terror cell responsible for the attack, which saw two barracks levelled by three grenades. 150 British soldiers were in the buildings at the time, though all escaped without serious injury. It is now up to the Czech Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky to decide whether or not Dickson will be extradited to Germany to stand trial. In the meantime the suspect has filed a complaint with the Czech high court.
Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has said the Czech Republic will increase security measures in connection with the threat of possible terrorist strikes. Mr Gross made the statement Thursday when he spoke with the Czech news agency CTK; he did not give further details. The Czech Republic's decision comes several days after Britain stepped up security in connection with reports of a possible attack in London by the al Qaeda terrorist network. No details about the nature of that potential attack have been revealed.
The Education Minister Petra Buzkova has said the Education Ministry is willing to co-operate with the Czech Hockey Association to ensure that the 2004 world ice hockey championships remain in Prague. Speaking with journalists on Thursday Mrs Buzkova said that the government's decision not to provide the arena's investor, the Sazka lottery company, with a guarantee on a financing loan, would not prevent the championships from taking place. Buzkova, whose ministry is also responsible in matters of sport, indicated that several solutions existed capable of solving the current dilemma, though she refrained from discussing them as yet. Wednesday the Czech government decided it would not provide Sazka with a guarantee for a six billion crown loan, needed to finish construction. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka indicated such a guarantee would be too risky. The International Ice Hockey Federation originally made the building of a new arena criteria for hosting the 2004 championships. Under the current circumstances it remains unclear where Sazka will get the funds needed to complete the project.
Three kilograms of sulphuric oxide gas escaped into the air during repairs and burned in the Spolana chemical plant in Neratovice, near Prague, on Thursday morning. Welding was underway when a chemical reaction with left-over sulphur led to the accident. Fire-fighters at the scene, assisting in the repairs, put out the ensuing chemical fire using steam. None of the sulphuric oxide escaped beyond the Spolana plant.
130 skiers spent part of Thursday stranded on chair-lifts that broke down at 9:30 a.m. at a ski resort in Spindleruv Mlyn. Rescue crews used ladders to help skiers down, with the last being helped to the ground by noon. So far the cause of the break-down remains unknown. Fire-fighters, mountain crews, and lift workers all took part in the effort, helping chilly and tired skiers get down from the lifts and out of the cold.
Friday will see clear skies and sunshine but remain chilly, with daytime temperatures hovering between just - 3 to 1 degree Celsius.
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