The sounds of the American anthem welcomed US President George W. Bush to Prague Castle on Tuesday for talks with his Czech counterpart, Vaclav Klaus, as well as with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. The talks were the first stop of Mr Bush's European visit, which includes, first and foremost, attending the G8 Summit in Germany, where Mr Bush will head on Tuesday evening. Mr Bush's stop-off in Prague, though brief, was not unimportant: he was in the Czech capital to discuss a number of issues, among them a US request to station part of its
George Bush has been all over the media in the Czech Republic since he arrived on Monday evening. However, many ordinary Czechs are perhaps talking less about his visit and more about a bizarre gift Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova was planning to give the US president - a CD supporting a planned US radar base on which the minister herself sings backing vocals.
On the eve of George W. Bush's visit to Prague, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the US President should leave the Czech Republic with the knowledge that the Czech Republic is an ally of the United States, yet will not allow anyone to dictate anything to it. Speaking in a televised debate on Sunday, Mr Topolanek said that during the Tuesday talks with Mr Bush, he would not link the issue of the US request to station a radar base, part of its anti-missile shield, in the Czech Republic with US visa requirements for Czech citizens.
Around a dozen demonstrations against a visit by US President George W. Bush will take place in Prague on Monday and Tuesday, with several of them protesting US plans to extend an anti-missile shield into Central and Eastern Europe. The Prague City Hall says it has been notified of seven anti-Bush demonstrations on Monday and another three on Tuesday. The 'No to Bases' movement says it expects several thousand protesters at its demonstration on Monday outside Prague Castle against US plans to station a tracking radar in the Czech Republic. Young communists are due to demonstrate outside the US embassy also on Monday. On Tuesday, another protest will be staged near the proposed radar site, 70 kilometres south-west of Prague. Municipal officials said one event staged in favour of the radar installation had also been scheduled.
Around 1,500 police officers will be mobilised for the US president's
visit, according to police headquarters. On Tuesday, major roads in the
surrounding Prague Castle, a popular tourist spot, will be closed with
public transport disrupted. Traffic in and out of Prague airport will also
be disrupted for half an hour on Monday evening and on Tuesday afternoon
during Air Force One's arrival and departure.
According to recent polls, two-thirds of Czechs are opposed to hosting a US radar base, but, so far, there have been no major demonstrations. During his short visit ahead of the G8 summit in Germany, President Bush is due to meet with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek at Prague Castle.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed on Thursday that the Czech Republic - together with Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary as well as the Baltic states - has addressed members of the US Congress in a letter presenting a joint-stance towards possible changes to the US visa waiver programme. The spokesman said that the initiative was aiming to secure the best possible negotiating conditions regarding possible visa-free relations. The countries that signed the letter established the so-called Coalition for Visa Equality last year. Earlier US representatives indicated that the visa waiver programme could be broadened at the end of US President George W. Bush's final term in office.
Early in June US President George W. Bush will visit the Czech Republic. The American Head of State will be meeting with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus and other senior politicians. Washington's visa policy and its plans to build a radar station on Czech soil are topics expected to be discussed the most. To get the US position on both issues ahead of Mr Bush's visit, our colleague Daniel Raus from Czech Radio 6 met with the US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber.
This time two weeks US President George Bush will be here in Prague to attend a conference on democracy and security. The American leader will also discuss the planned building of a US radar base in central Bohemia with senior Czech politicians, during a visit that is expected to last a day and a half. A number of anti-Bush protests have already been announced, and we can expect the kind of security operation rarely seen in the Czech capital.
Madeleine Albright, the Prague-born former United States secretary of state, is celebrating her 70th birthday. Born Marie Jana Korbelova on May 15 1937, she was forced to flee her native country twice, first from the Nazis, then from the Communists. Her career reached a peak in 1997, when she became the first woman in history to head the US State Department.
Marsha Kocabova is a former modern ballet dancer from North Carolina who almost overnight ended up at the side of a prominent dissident in communist Czechoslovakia. Her husband Michael Kocab was the frontman of the popular 1980s underground rock group Prazsky Vyber, which was banned by the Communists; her daughter Natalie is now one of the country's most successful young up-and-coming writers and singers.