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Zeman, new defence minister speak to Czech soldiers on missions

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Prague, Dec 14 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman thanked Czech soldiers on foreign missions for their work and fight against various forms of Islamic terrorism through a video call, in which the new Defence Minister Karla Slechtova also joined, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told CTK on Thursday.

The president spoke with the Czech Military’s mission commanders in Afghanistan, Mali, on Sinai, in the Golan Heights and in Iraq, passing them best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

The Czech Military currently has between 400 to 500 soldiers on foreign missions and it is planning to expand their number by several hundreds next year.

Chief-of-Staff Josef Becvar also participated in the call.

At the end of November, Becvar said after a meeting of the military command that the Czech military would increase its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq next year.

Although the exact numbers are not known yet, according to previous statements of former defence minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO), dozens of soldiers should reinforce the units in Afghanistan and 200 to 300 new soldiers from different units could go to Iraq in 2018. Another 250 soldiers could reinforce the current NATO units in the Baltics.

First the parliament has to approve any reinforcement of the country’s military presence abroad.

Stropnicky took the post of the foreign minister in the new cabinet, while former regional development minister Karla Slechtova became current Defence Minister.

Zeman appointed the new cabinet on Wednesday and PM Andrej Babis (ANO) is to ask the parliament for confidence for it on January 10, 2018.

Babis would like the country to send a military unit to Libya to help protect its border from illegal migration.

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