Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka will decide on Thursday about sending new reinforcements for the protection of Czechs in Iraq, after a suicide attack killed at least twenty and injured one hundred at United Nations headquarters in Baghdad on Tuesday. Among those killed in the attack was U.N. special envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil. The Czech Republic has 79 police officers currently deployed in Iraq, most protecting the 7th field hospital in Basra. They are co-operating with the British as part of a multi-national division. An additional 15 officers protect Czech diplomats in the Iraqi capital.
Meanwhile, the Czech coordinator for the office for reconstruction and humanitarian aid to Iraq, Janina Hrebickova, revealed the security situation has deteriorated so extensively in Iraq that she will return to Prague on Wednesday to discuss developments and new measures with Czech government officials.
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has also addressed the situation in Iraq saying Czech diplomats and professionals in the country would relocate to a safer zone. Their movement will also be more restricted, and far more carefully planned. Currently five diplomats and a fourteen-member expert team reside at the Czech embassy in Baghdad.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has arrived in Prague. On a three day official visit to the Czech Republic, Mr Koizumi is scheduled to meet with his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla and senior government and parliament officials. The visit is aimed at further developing bilateral relations in advance of the Czech Republic's entry into the EU. On Thursday Prime Minister Koizumi is to lay a wreath at the statue of St Wenceslas on Prague's Wenceslas Square, and pay homage to the memory of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, two students who committed suicide in protest of the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.
August 20th marks the eve of the anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia thirty-five years ago by Warsaw Pact troops. The invasion crushed the period of political, economic, and cultural reforms known as the Prague Spring. Shortly after 11 pm on August 20th, 1968, Soviet planes began landing unexpectedly at Prague's Ruzyne airport, unloading personnel and later tanks. Early on the 21st, troops crossed directly over the border, some 200, 000 from the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and East Germany. Thursday will see a commemoration ceremony held at the Czech Radio building in Prague for Czechs who died during the invasion, some of them trying to defend the strategic site.
President Vaclav Klaus has signed a number of new laws, including the much debated civil service law. The legislation defines the rights and responsibilities of roughly 80,000 state employees, who will have to swear an oath of loyalty to the state and will have to forego other sources of income. On the other hand civil servants will have the right to five weeks of paid holidays and will receive five months' severance pay.
Thursday is expected to be overcast with daytime temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius.
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