The government has sought to clarify its position on the war against Iraq, in the light of conflicting statements from senior Czech officials. Following a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czech Republic was not a member of the so-called "coalition of the willing", as claimed by the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The prime minister made the statement after a radio interview on Wednesday with the Czech foreign minister, Cyril Svoboda, who said the Czech Republic was "on the side of" the U.S. coalition because it was a coalition of democratic countries.
Prime Minister Spidla clarified the exact mandate of the Czech anti-chemical unit currently stationed alongside U.S. troops in Kuwait. He said the unit would not join an offensive against Iraq and would only provide humanitarian assistance if Iraq used weapons of mass destruction. Mr Spidla said the 350-strong unit - which specialises in detecting nuclear, biological and chemical weapons - would only intervene to save lives in Kuwait or neighbouring countries. The Defence Ministry has said none of the soldiers were injured in Thursday's Iraqi rocket attack on Kuwait.
The Czech President, Vaclav Klaus has, also issued a statement stressing his country has not joined the war against Iraq. President Klaus released the statement after summoning Mr Svoboda to a meeting at Prague Castle to explain Wednesday's remarks.
A widespread security operation is in force in the country following the outbreak of hostilities in the Gulf. Heightened security is in place at airports, nuclear power stations, chemical plants, water treatment facilities as well as embassies and government offices, amid concerns that terrorist groups may launch an attack against the country. The authorities have said there is no concrete threat, but believe the heightened security is justified. On Wednesday the Czech Republic expelled four Iraqi diplomats, a move officials said was designed to prevent possible secret intelligence-gathering.
Around 500 anti-war demonstrators gathered on Prague's Wenceslas Square on Thursday evening to protest against the war. Organisers said they intended to spend the night in front of the Government Office.
Czechs have besieged an Interior Ministry internet site containing the names of around 75,000 thousand people who allegedly collaborated with the Communist secret police, the StB. Under a law approved by parliament last year, the Interior Ministry has published a list of former secret police collaborators, ending a 13-year wait. For those without Internet access, a 5,000-page hard copy, bound into 12 volumes, is available free from the ministry.
Police say a man has been shot and injured in the centre of Prague. The incident took place at around 4.30 pm in front of the Czech News Agency building in Prague's Opletalova street. Police say they arrested two men who were trying to flee the area.
Police in Brno say a woman whose charred body was found lying on a cemetery path on Wednesday apparently committed suicide. A police spokesman said a petrol can had been found near the woman's body. The woman has not been identified. Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old student burned himself to death on Prague's Wenceslas Square, metres away from where student Jan Palach immolated himself in 1969.
Friday will be a mostly cloudy day, with temperatures in the daytime reaching a maximum of 6 degrees Celsius.
Over 1,000 skeletons discovered during renovation of Kutná Hora “bone church”
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
Why are Russian and Chinese spying activities in Czech Republic so intense and how exactly do they do it?
Prague’s historical Koh-i-noor factory to be converted into residential area
Gunman kills six patients in Ostrava hospital, two more fighting for their lives