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Czech Republic: Klaus Answers Back

Prague,10 December 1997 (RFE/RL) -- This is the full text of the statement made by outgoing Premier Vaclav Klaus, chairman of the main coalition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), responding to a speech by President Vaclav Havel to parliament, which amounted to a sharp criticism of Klaus's government.

"As Premier of the outgoing government, I feel that I must comment on this afternoon's speech by the President of the Republic. I was prepared for it. The President told me during Saturday's (6 December) meeting that I was not going to like the speech. I have to say he was right.

Whether I liked it or not is irrelevant, however.The question is what this speech means and what it willead to. In today's political situation I am trying to behave like a statesman and trying not to stir up already well-stirred emotions in the country and in our dissatisfied society.

The President also called for responsibility, tolerance, respect and humility in his speech, but the truth is that the tone of his speech was exactly the opposite -- it was confrontational, it will exacerbate the situation rather than calm it down.

Any objectively-thinking person is surely unable to agree either with his evaluation of the last eight years, or with his evaluation of the current situation in our country, or, I believe, with his vision of the future, which I view as the tip of the "third path" iceberg that we have so long discarded.

If his speech was meant completely seriously, then it is difficult to believe that the President can entrust someone from the former coalition with building a new government.

I interpret the President's speech as a challenge. The last eight years have been a battle between two world visions, and this afternoon's speech illustrated this clearly.

He pointed to a vision of the world that is diametrically opposed to right-wing thinking, and showed how deep is his ignorance of the workings of the market economy and a free society eight years after the fall of communism, one day short of the eve of the eighth anniversary of the appointment of the first post-communist government in our country.

Regardless of this speech, I am determined to continue searching for a constructive solution to the present situation."