Speaking to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Zeman told a crowd of around 300 foreign policy buffs that a terrorist is a terrorist, and that granting terrorist groups diplomatic legitimacy will only lead to serious trouble.
"The basic nature of any terrorist organization is blackmail," said Zeman. "If you negotiate with any terrorist organization, the result will be blackmail and not political compromise."
In a fiery speech punctuated with an attractive self-deprecating humor, Zeman echoed President George W. Bush's U.S. stance that nations that support terror are terrorists themselves and should be treated as such by the rest of the world despite their stated political goals. He warned that attempting to strike deals with rogue regimes or extremist groups was dangerously similar to Europe's attempts to forge a lasting peace deal with the likes of Adolf Hitler.
Although British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain proclaimed the 1938 Munich Treaty with Germany would bring "peace in our time," the deal unraveled before the ink was dry and World War II was under way.
Zeman warned that the nations of the world, particularly those in Europe, must be on guard against falling into a similar trap when dealing with the so-called freedom fighters and independence movements that resort to using terrorist tactics against innocent civilians.
"There is a common definition of terrorism, but it is not accepted by all," Zeman said. "Anyone who organizes such killings or finances such killings is a terrorist."
He also dismissed the notion that terrorism is spawned by poverty and desperation, noting that the Basque region of Spain is prosperous and that Osama bin Laden himself is a multimillionaire.
Terrorism, he declared, is the product of "fundamentalism and fanaticism" and that "you cannot reduce terrorism to a single country or movement."
The Czech Republic, the newest member of NATO, has pitched in with nominal commitments of personnel during the Gulf War and the current military campaign in Afghanistan. The parliament next week will discuss deploying a medical unit to Afghanistan and has already pledged to send special forces troops to the region.
Zeman said that his country of only 10 million people was acting out of a commitment to standing up to terrorism rather than merely jumping on the bandwagon.
"What we need are deeds and not words," he said, "even if our help is more or less symbolic."
As a staunch supporter of NATO and pending member of the European Union, the Czech Republic wants to see a unified and solid stand against terrorism and the more ticklish matter of dealing with nations such as Iraq and Iran that have been labeled as supporters of terrorism, but also have oil reserves that might tempt individual nations to waver.
"This might be one of the reasons behind the cancer of appeasement -- economic reasons, including oil supplies," he acknowledged in an interview following his speech. "But I said everyone who finances a terrorist is a terrorist. That's why it is a risky business. It includes this country (Iraq) among terrorist organizations."
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