Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Czech PM 'dreading' Mandela funeral

Jiri Rusnok complained that he had plans for a lunch and a dinner and that a South Africa trip to attend Nelson Mandela's funeral would be too long (AP)

The Czech prime minister has apologised after he was recorded saying that he "was dreading" having to go to Nelson Mandela's funeral.

Jiri Rusnok 's conversation with defence minister Vlastimil Picek in the Czech parliament on Friday was broadcast by the country's public TV news channel.

When Mr Picek reminded him that president Milos Zeman might be unable to fly to South Africa due to a knee injury, Mr Rusnok reacted with a vulgar term.

Addressing his companion by the Czech equivalent of "dude", Mr Rusnok said: "I'm dreading that I will have to go."

He complained that he had other plans - a lunch and a dinner - and that a South Africa trip would be too long.

The recording became widely popular in local media and on the internet on Saturday.

"I apologise for those words," Mr Rusnok said in a statement sent to the Associated Press. "It was not right to use such terms in connection with the death of Nelson Mandela."

Mr Rusnok said it would be difficult for him to find time for unexpected events in his busy December schedule.

He said it will be decided in the next few days who will represent the Czech Republic at Mr Mandela's funeral on December 15.

Mr Mandela visited Prague in 1992 to meet with then-president Vaclav Havel, who had led the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended 40 years of communism in his country.

The two leaders had both spent years in prison for opposing repressive regimes before becoming presidents. They reportedly became good friends.

Mr Havel died in 2011.

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