Czechs unwittingly marred U.S. secret arms purchase - press

Podle WikiLeaks CR nechte zmarila tajny nakup ruskych raket

Prague - The Czech Foreign Ministry in 2005 unwittingly prevented a secret attempt of the United States at buying Russian air-to-surface missiles via Belarus, the daily Pravo writes today, referring to information that the Wikileaks server provided to the Belarusian Internet daily

According to the document of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, the U.S. Navy wanted to get 23 Kh-31 missiles, known in the anti-radiation and anti-shipping versions, among others.

After Moscow blocked a direct attempt of Czech and Ukrainian mediators to buy the missiles, Washington decided to try it via Belarus, Pravo writes.

It says Belarus was to get an updated version of the missiles and it was willing to scrap the old ones and sell them to an arms dealer. A complicated chain of mediators should get the missiles to the United States via Ukraine and a Czech dealer was to be involved.

Then U.S. ambassador to Prague, William Cabaniss, wrote to the U.S. State Department that a Czech arms dealer was to receive the missiles from a Ukrainian mediator and hand them to a subcontractor who would import them to the United States, Pravo writes citing the information from Wikileaks.

The U.S. Embassy in Prague said it believes this was the only way to gain the missiles. The Czech export licence would state that the missiles were delivered from Ukraine and their Belarusian origin may be traced only from their serial numbers, the paper writes citing an embassy?s report.

But the clerks of the Foreign Ministry did not seem to know of the U.S. secret operation and they did not issue a licence for the Czech mediator who was to play a key role in the operation, Pravo writes.

Cabaniss noted that the Czech government was highly critical of Alexandr Lukashenko?s regime and that some officers of the Czech Foreign Ministry, especially those responsible for the promotion of human rights and democracy, had reservations about the purchase of missiles, the paper says.

The Foreign Ministry, then headed by Cyril Svoboda (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL), issued a negative stance on the purchase.

The ministry?s clerk who dealt with the case even called the Industry and Trade Ministry, which makes the final decision on the arms trading licences, to check that the licence really would not be issued.

Cabaniss laconically concluded that a U.S. embassy employee was told that the Czech government considers the issue closed and thanks for the consultations with the U.S. administration, the paper writes.

Cyril Svoboda admitted to Pravo that there were several similar cases at the Foreign Ministry then.

Svoboda refused to comment on the information released by Wikileaks. Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange should be in prison and the issues should not be discussed, he told the paper.


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