Washington - Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek was all smiles when the memorandum was signed in Washington DC on Tuesday that will allow Czech tourists to enter the United States without visas.
But the main point on the agenda of Topolánek´s visit came on Wednesday. The key purpose of his trip to the United States was American missile defense base to be built in the Czech Republic.
Mirek Topolánek visited the White House for the first time. The last Czech PM to enter the Oval Room was Vladimír Špidla in 2003, his host also being George Walker Bush.
The Wednesday's one hour meeting of Topolánek and Bush ended with Czech PM saying that only three words prevented the Czech delegation from reaching an agreement on the anti-missile radar on Czech territory - "strict environmental regulations".
In spite of the disputes on the environmental issue, both sides assume an agreement will be reached soon.
Allegedly, the further treaty details are to be discussed at the next NATO summit. "I want to have the document definitely signed at the April NATO summit in Bucharest, or that is at least the plan," Mr. Topolanek told reporters on the plane on the way to the US.
Shotgun as a present
Czech PM has brought a special present to the US president George Bush, as the protocol of official visits requests.
The present - a precious hand-made shotgun - comes from Czech weapons manufacturer Česká Zbrojovka.
"It is a shotgun CZ 550 callibre 308 Winchester. Mr. Bush´s initials are engraved in it accompanied by a dedication by the Prime Minister, inscribed by laser. The shotgun is garnished with gold and silver and hunting motives," said Jiří Kovařík, the CEO of the arms company that also has its branch in the US.
President Bush who is a passionate hunter, much like his father, would not get to enjoy the gun though. US presidents cannot keep any presents that cost more than 500 USD. The new Czech shotgun is worth tens of thousands of CZK, surpassing the limit.
Mr. Bush had to take the shotgun without bullets since it is forbidden to transport loaded guns on the Czech government plane. The gun even without bullets had to cross the ocean dismantled into pieces.
"The bullets are normal calibre, so it will not be difficult to get them in the US," said Mr. Kovařík.
The present is said to be good for shooting down even big animals like bears.
Demos in front of the White House
While Mr. Topolánek was having lunch with US Vice-President Dick Cheney, people gathered in front of the White House to protest against the anti-missile radar and interceptor base to be built in the Czech Republic and Poland, respectively.
"Ho ho, this Czech base´s got to go, hey hey," demonstrators were shouting.
"No bases" and "Bases will increase international tension and intesify interational arms race", said the banners the protestors were carrying.
Among the protesting organizations were "Codepink Women for Peace" and "Campaign for Peace and Democracy", the main organizer of the rally.
"It may not seem so to Czechs, but many Americans across the entire country worry a lot about Bush´s administration´s policy of armament," says Marie Dennis from the Pax Christi Intenational organization.
While Topolánek and Bush were literally cornered by journalists, there were almost no reporters following the anti-radar protesters. The only people who were interested in their protests seemed to be the Czech documentary film makers Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda, authors of the award-winning Czech Dream (Český sen), who are presently working on a documentary film on the anti-missile radar.
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