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Political Obituary of Deceased Christian Democrat

Former Christian Democrat leader Josef Lux on Monday lost his brave battle with leukaemia. He died of pneumonia in a Seattle, Washington clinic a few weeks after receiving a bone marrow transplant. He was 43 and is survived by his wife and six children.
"I admit I could not pragmatically handle some situations which I perceive as hopeless from the purely human viewpoint..."

It was this hope that gave Josef Lux the strength to fight on. Maybe also the strength to fight for his life during the weeks spent at the Fred Hutchinson Clinic in Seattle. His battle with a treacherous disease, a rare type of chronic leukaemia, ended in the early morning hours of Monday...

A father of six and a devout Catholic, Josef Lux entered top politics soon after Czechoslovakia's democratic revolution of 1989 as a member of the now-defunct federal parliament. In 1992, he was made deputy Czech premier and minister of agriculture - posts which he would hold for several years.

By then, Lux was the leader of the Christian-oriented People's Party, which often decided about the future course of Czech politics. Although the Christian Democrats were never the strongest party, Lux nonetheless proved strong enough to force then-Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus to reshuffle the coalition government he led. A few months later, Lux was instrumental in bringing about the collapse of the country' right-wing cabinet.

It was his shining hour. This episode enabled Lux to fully unfurl his negotiating talent and to become a member of thus far the most popular Czech government - the interim administration of Josef Tosovsky, which ruled the Czech Republic until after the early elections of 1998.

A few months later, his government post relinquished in the wake of an election that brought the minority Social Democrats to power, Josef Lux shocked the nation once again. Late in the summer of last year, he publicly announced he was quitting virtually all his party and public posts because he had been diagnosed with a blood disease. Today we know that that was the end of one singularly brilliant political career...
Political scene mourns Lux's death

Tributes have been pouring in for the former leader of the Christian Democrats, and as Peter Smith explains, they have been coming from right across the political spectrum..
The political world is indeed united by a deep sense of loss at the death of Josef Lux, but for observers, that loss will be deepest felt by the members of his own political party. Cyril Svoboda, the deputy chairman of the Christian Democrats, remembered Lux as more than simply a political colleague..

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President Vaclav Havel said at Prague Castle yesterday that with the death of Josef Lux, the Czech Republic had lost a very open and honourable person. 'His departure,' said Havel, 'is a difficult loss for his family, the government, parliament, politics and the whole country,'

Premier Milos Zeman was of the belief that Josef Lux was not disliked by anyone in politics. 'It is said that a politician has few friends and none at all among his political opponents. I would say that Josef Lux was very different in this.'

As if to reassert this point, the former Chairman of the ODA, Jan Kalvoda, said simply that he had 'lost his friend'.

So what will be Josef Lux's legacy in Czech politics? According to Cyril Svoboda, it will be non-conformity with the accepted practices of confrontation and back-stabbing practised by so many politicians today..

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Czech foreign ministry on Russia's protest note

As you may have heard, Russia sent the Czech Republic a strongly worded protest note late last week in connection with a recent visit to this country by Chechen foreign minister Ilyas Achmadov. In its reaction on Friday the Czech foreign ministry emphatically rejected the accusations that the Czech Republic had interfered in Russia's internal affairs and supported Chechen terrorist activities. We asked Czech foreign ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil how this response was received and what words have been exchanged with Russian officials since.
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Havel won't interview?

Czech President Vaclav Havel has been defending himself against criticism of his approach to the media. The opposition Civic Democrat party has attacked Havel for his appearance on Czech Television at the weekend, where he spoke critically of the Civic Democrats' leader, Vaclav Klaus, and accuses the president of avoiding a public face off with his opponents. Catherine Miller has been following the story:
President Havel appeared on Czech TV at the weekend, along with a number of his former co-revolutionaries, to discuss the events of 1989. During the programme he was sharply critical of Vaclav Klaus and now stands accused by Klaus's party of only appearing in the media surrounded by friends and not defending his views in front of his opponents. Havel defended his position, saying that it was irrelevant whether the participants were old friends or not.

Whatever the truth behind the bickering over this particular programme, it is not the first time that politicians' use of the media has come under question in the Czech Republic. Andrew Stroehlein, now editor in chief of the Central Europe Review, used to produce one of the main news shows for Czech Television, the 21 show:

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So Klaus is perhaps not in much of a position to criticize Havel's media practices. Stroehlein says, however, that such cases are widespread across the political spectrum and that, politicians even sometimes write their own questions for interviews. The fault may lie as much with journalists as with politicians. Many are young, intimidated by big-name politicians and, as Stroehlein points out, have their own futures to think of:

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Until journalists can worry less about themselves and think more about what questions the public wants them to ask, it looks like politicians from all sides will keep getting away with it time after time.
US sanctions for the sale of fighter planes to North Korea

The US State Department announced on Monday that Washington has imposed sanctions on a Czech firm for arranging the sale of Mig-21 fighter planes to North Korea . Alena Skodova has this report:
The Czech company under sanctions is Agroplast from the North Bohemian town of Liberec. State department spokesman James Rubin said that his department was looking at the possibility of applying additional measures, as Agroplast was one of the two companies - the other one is based in Kazakhstan - which were directly responsible for selling and arranging the delivery of the planes to North Korea. Rubin added that the State Department was going to continue to review all the relevant information to ensure that the entities that had been sanctioned had not been assisted by anyone.

The sanctions took effect last Wednesday and will stay in force for one year from the time the transfer took place or until the United States decides to lift them. A scandal over the sales broke out in August, triggering criticism from South Korea and the United States, although the planes are aging left-overs from the mighty Soviet-era military machine, dating from the 1960s and are not thought to be militarily significant.

In March, two officials from Agroplast were detained in Azerbaijan while arranging the illegal export of six Migs there, which were allegedly bound for North Korea. The two men are facing charges of illegal arms trading and they are being prosecuted as escapees. Although Agroplast is officially registered as a mining and recycling company, the Czech Intelligence Service says the firm might have been one of the leading international weapons smugglers over the past six years.

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