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Czech Republic: Prague Is Seeking The Convention Spotlight

Prague, 28 September (RFE/RL) -- The Czech Republic's finance minister and the mayor of Prague say the Czech capital is positioning itself to become one of the world's leading destinations for conventions.

Pavel Mertlik, the Czech deputy prime minister and finance minister, and Prague Mayor Jan Kasl say this will become evident next autumn when Prague hosts the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank and the IMF selected Prague for the prestigous gathering at their meeting in Hong Kong two years ago.

Mertlik and Kasl spoke at a news conference Monday during the current round of World Bank-IMF meetings. They were in Washington to report on progress the Czech city is making to prepare for next year's World Bank/IMF meetings.

Mertlik said, "We believe that the timing of the Annual Meeting 2000 is just the right one for the world to see the beginning of the new, more stable and more sustainable development of the Czech economy and the Czech Republic as such, and its preparation for the joining of the European Union."

Both men noted that the European Union has designated Prague as one of Europe's nine most beautiful and historically significant cities to promote European culture at the turn of the millennium.

Kasl said: "As Prague is the jewel of architecture, history, culture, I think with what we have to offer, we can become one of the major destination of this kind."

The mayor noted that Prague ranks number 10 in the world as a convention city, but he stressed that because it is so small, it could never compete with the larger cities like London or Paris.

Zdenek Hrudy, who is coordinating preparations among the various Czech ministries and municipalities to host the World Bank-IMF meetings, also appeared at the news conference.

Hrudy says about $90 million is being spent to renovate the Prague Congress Center, and that the city is fully prepared to handle the influx of between 15,000 and 20,000 people for the event.