US President Barack Obama has called on the international community to
cooperate in building a world without nuclear weapons. Speaking in Prague
on his maiden tour of Europe, Mr. Obama said that the Cold War was over and
it was time to face a new threat – that of a nuclear attack. He said that
while the threat of a nuclear war had gone down, the threat of a nuclear
attack had gone up. The US president said his country was ready to lead
such an international endeavor by pursuing a new deal with Russia to cut
nuclear warheads and seeking a new international treaty to end production
of fissile materials for nuclear arms.
Mr. Obama stressed the need to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
into force and seek tough penalties for nuclear proliferators. He said
North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket over Japan on Sunday was
proof of the urgency of these goals and called on Pyongyang to abandon its
efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.
Addressing the issue of nuclear missile defense, the US president said that as long as the threat from Iran persisted America would go forward with the missile defense system. On the contrary, if the Iranian threat were eliminated, he said the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe would be removed.
The US President and First Lady who arrived in Prague on Saturday were received with honours at Prague Castle on Sunday morning where Mr. Obama held talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek before delivering his first public address in Europe since his inauguration.
The US First Lady Michelle Obama had a separate programme for most of the day. After being received at Prague Castle and hearing her husbands’s public speech she visited St Vitus’ Cathedral and St George Basilica at Prague Castle in the company of the Czech First Lady Livia Klausová. Later Michelle Obama was given a tour of Prague's Old Jewish Quarter, visiting the Old Jewish Cemetery and the 13th-century Old-New Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in the world. At 1,30 pm she flew back to the United States.
On Sunday afternoon the US president met with the leaders of the 27 EU member states for an informal EU-US summit. The talks focused primarily on security issues, the situation in Afghanistan and global warming. Mr. Obama also asked EU leaders to consider taking in former prisoners from Guantanamo. Some EU states have indicated they would be willing to comply with this request on a case-by-case basis.
Addressing the summit US President Obama gave his backing to Turkey's bid to join the EU, saying it would wrap the mainly Muslim nation into the European fold. He said Turkey’s accession to the EU – on which members are dividend - would be "an important signal" which would "firmly anchor" Turkey in Europe.
President Barack Obama also said the United States was ready to take the lead in tackling climate change, breaking with his predecessor George W. Bush's stance, which had long frustrated Washington's European Union partners. Speaking after the informal summit, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said he detected a genuine change under the new US administration.
The European Union on Sunday strongly condemned North Korea's rocket launch and called on Pyongyang to suspend its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. "These actions place additional strains on regional stability at a time when the unresolved nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula requires mutual confidence building," the Czech EU presidency said in a statement.
U.S. comments on the need to continue developing defences against
ballistic missiles have confirmed the Czech position that a defence shield
is needed, the Czech Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova told the CTK news agency that Mr. Obama’s
speech and statements from the White House confirm what the Czech Republic
had been saying all along and what was also confirmed by the NATO summit -
that anti-missile defence is necessary, or it will be sooner or later. The
White house said North Korea's rocket launch earlier on Sunday demonstrated
the need for the United States to continue developing anti-missile systems.
The former US administration of president Bush made plans to site missile-defence components in Central Europe – a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Since the change of administration their future has been uncertain. Although the Czech government has approved the radar and Prague and Washington have signed the respective treaties, the project would still need to be approved by Parliament. Opinion polls show that the majority of Czechs are against the siting of a US radar on Czech soil. Three hundred people turned out to demonstrate against it in the centre of Prague on Saturday and more protests took place today.
Before leaving the Czech Republic for Turkey on Sunday evening President Obama met with the icon of the Velvet Revolution, the former Czech president Vaclav Havel. Mr. Havel said he had been greatly impressed by Mr. Obama’s speech in Prague. However he warned Mr. Obama against the excessive hopes that were being pinned on him. Mr. Havel said this was a reflection of his own personal experience. The US president said he was aware of the problem and had already started to notice early signs of it.
Talks on the composition of a caretaker government which would rule the country until early elections planned for the autumn continued over the weekend with a statement expected late on Sunday. Representatives of the ruling coalition and the opposition Social Democrats are hoping to reach agreement on a prime minister designate and 16 members of cabinet, a proposal that would be presented to the president on Monday. The ruling parties and the opposition were forced to cooperate on producing a new government after President Klaus said that he would not consider naming a prime minister designate anyone who did not have majority support in the lower house. The alternative is that President Klaus himself would put together a transitional cabinet of his own choice. The caretaker cabinet now being compiled by the coalition and opposition parties is likely to consist of career diplomats and non-partisan experts.