Czech shield for chemical attack

PRAGUE – The Czech government has decided to send 100 anti-chemical warfare specialists to help guard the Summer Olympics, an official said yesterday. The government was acting on a NATO request to contribute the force to the August 13-29 Games in Athens, government spokesman Jindrich Marek said. The move still needs parliamentary approval, he said. The Czech soldiers would be part of a force ready to respond to the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. They would join 30 other specialists from Belgium and Hungary, Defense Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said. The Czechs will also provide security at the September 17-28 Athens Paralympic Games, he said. Greece is spending 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) on security for the Games. It has enlisted the help of NATO, which will patrol the sea and skies, and is being assisted by a seven-nation advisory group led by the US and Britain. About 70,000 police officers and soldiers will patrol Athens and Olympic venues during the Games. Specialized troops from Czechoslovakia were the only ones to detect traces of nerve gas in the Saudi Arabian desert during the 1991 Gulf War, two years before that country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Czechs were also deployed in Kuwait to support last year’s US-led campaign in Iraq in case Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction. Another unit of Czech anti-chemical specialists will help provide security in Istanbul, Turkey, during this weekend’s NATO summit to be attended by United States President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other alliance leaders.