Czech lawmakers approve troops for Afghanistan, Kosovo in 2009
The Czech parliament's lower house Wednesday agreed to deploy troops in NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo in 2009, a move that averts troop withdrawals from those countries by March, dpa reported.
Lawmakers approved the military deployments abroad in a 105-66 vote, while 14 abstained.
Under the approved plan, the Czech Republic can station up to 480 soldiers under NATO's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan, down from cabinet's original request for up to 645 troops but a slight boost from the 2008 limit of 415 soldiers.
But the Central European country of 10.3 million is to withdraw 100 special-forces troops from the US-led Enduring Freedom mission in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova said earlier that the troops would leave the country in October.
The lawmakers also allowed the government to deploy up to 550 in NATO's KFOR mission in Kosovo.
The house rejected an earlier cabinet proposal on this year's military deployments in December in a move which has threatened a withdrawal of some 800 Czech soldiers abroad by March.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek's weakened center-right government then slashed planned troop numbers for this year in an effort to win over opposition votes. The opposition Social Democrats had threatened to spike the deployments to the last minute.
The country is also to deploy 75 soldiers and four Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets in the Baltics under NATO's air-guard duty.
The government also has a mandate to dispatch up to 1,800 troops under European Union's Battle Group in the second half of 2009. The cabinet can also send up to 229 soldiers under NATO Response Force until mid July.
The Czechs will send no military instructors to Iraq this year, contrary to original plans.