Czech PM apologises for embarrassing words linked to late Mandela

Pietní místo s portrétem exprezidenta Nelsona Mandely v jihoafrickém Johannesburgu.

published: 07.12.2013, 18:57 | updated: 07.12.2013 19:03:33

Prague - Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok today apologised for his off-record expression of hope that he will not have to go to South Africa to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela, which, he said, was inappropriate and he regrets having said it.

Rusnok pronounced the words in a private conversation with Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek, which was caught by microphones in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday and appeared as a video on the Internet today.

The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Johana Grohova today said the ministry is still negotiating about the lineup of the Czech delegation to attend the December 15 funeral of Mandela, South African human rights fighter, Nobel Peace Prize holder and former president who died on Thursday.

"We are negotiating about Czech participation on the relevant level. We´ve addressed the Presidential Office and the leaderships of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate," Grohova said.

The delegation´s lineup is to be known in the days to come.

It ensues from the above recording that Rusnok does not feel like going to South Africa.

"I´m trembling [with fear] of having to go there," Rusnok said, adding that he wished that President Milos Zeman go to South Africa.

Zeman, however, was until recently recovering from a knee injury over which he cancelled all planned foreign trips. Now he has resumed work at Prague Castle but doctors probably would not recommend the long flight to him.

"Since the president is still in convalescence, we suppose that Nelson Mandela´s funeral will be attended by some other Czech top constitutional official, either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate chairman," Zeman´s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told CTK today.

Rusnok apologised for his words.

"It was not appropriate to express myself this way in connection with the death of President Nelson Mandela and I regret having done so," Rusnok wrote in a sms to CTK today.

He said for him as prime minister, combining his work schedule with unexpected events amounts to a "juggling with time," mainly now that little time is left for him to cope with numerous tasks before the end of the year.

Rusnok´s conversation with Picek, which also includes vulgar expressions, drew the attention of theatre director Tomas Svoboda who said he would "implant" it in his production of King Ubu on the New Scene of the National Theatre in Prague.

Mandela´s funeral will be attended by world leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and his predecessors George W.Bush and Bill Clinton, as well as Pope Francis, the Tibetan Dalai Lama and significant personalities such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the AP press agency reported.



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