published: 19.02.2013, 17:12 | updated: 19.02.2013 17:20:44
Prague - The lower house of Czech parliament approved the deployment of Czech troops in Mali within the EU training mission from April 2013 to June 2014.
In the lower house vote, 130 lawmakers supported the mission, including 27 opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), and 33 of them opposed it, including all 19 Communist (KSCM) MPs present and 12 CSSD MPs.
The upper house, dominated by the CSSD, is yet to discuss the deployment. If it agrees with it, up to 50 Czech soldiers may go to Mali.
Czech soldiers are to guard a training base in the capital Bamako in the first six months of their 15-month foreign mission. Then they should take part in the training of Mali's armed forces.
The Defence Ministry expects the Czech participation in the Mali mission to cost 135 million crowns this year.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS) repeated that the military operation in Mali is a training mission, not a combat one.
Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said the Czech Republic should be interested in the participation in the Mali mission because the Islamist effort at taking control of the region is a security threat.
The Islamists now dominate the northern part of the country.
Schwarzenberg said earlier the Czech Republic would not be trustworthy and the Czech position in the EU would be seriously weakened if the country did not contribute to the mission.
Lawmaker Jiri Paroubek (National Socialists, NS-LEV 21), former socialist prime minister, said he considers the Mali mission "an adventure."
The Czech Republic will also give redundant arms to Mali´s armed forces - assault rifles and possibly also pistols, machine guns and ammunition.
The Mali mission has been commanded by France that sent about 4000 soldiers to the country who have been fighting the Islamist rebels.
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