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Czech Insists Radio Free Europe Move

January 14, 2002

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ The Czech prime minister demanded Monday that the U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty move its headquarters out of downtown Prague because of the risk of terrorist attacks.

``On the side of the Czech Cabinet, the decision has been unequivocally made,″ Prime Minister Milos Zeman said in an interview with Frekvence 1 radio. ``I think it is stupid to offer the terrorist a target in the center of Prague.″

Zeman said the U.S. and Czech governments had been negotiating a move for three months and that the station will have to respect any agreement reached by the two governments.

``Our partner (in talks) is the United States, not Radio Free Europe,″ Zeman said.

Last week, Radio Free Europe President Tom Dine said moving the station from its current headquarters would mean giving in to terrorists.

``In the face of a threat, in the face of fear, you stand and face it,″ Dine said in an interview with the English-language weekly The Prague Post. ``You don’t run.″

Following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the Czech government repeatedly has expressed concern about the broadcaster’s location on a busy street in Prague.

The appeals to move became more insistent after Zeman said that one of the hijackers involved in the terrorist attacks, Mohammed Atta, had met with an Iraqi diplomat in Prague to discuss an attack on the Radio Free Europe headquarters.

Dine suggested, however, that parliamentary elections this year were causing authorities to make more of a fuss than was warranted.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, nonprofit corporation that receives funding from the U.S. government. It was established in 1949 to spread uncensored news to countries behind the Iron Curtain and to promote democratic values and institutions.

The broadcaster moved its headquarters from Munich, Germany, to Prague in 1995 following the collapse of communism six years earlier.

In 1998, the station also started broadcasting to Iran and Iraq. It plans to start broadcasting to Afghanistan soon.

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