PRAGUE (AP) - The prime minister of the Czech Republic says it
could have been his taste for the rock group AC/DC - not his study
of economics - that inspired him to describe President Barack
Obama's nearly $2 trillion economic plan as "the road to hell."
"Last week, AC/DC played the Czech Republic," Mirek Topolanek
told the Lidove Noviny daily newspaper Friday. "And their cult
song 'Highway to Hell' may have influenced me to use, in my very
improvised speech, 'the road to hell."'
A week after seeing the Australian band, Topolanek departed from
his prepared text in a speech Wednesday before the European
Parliament, which included the phrase "the road to destruction" -
substituting instead the controversial phrase.
Trying to explain the remarks, his spokesman, Jiri Frantisek
Potuznik, said Friday that Topolanek merely meant to warn U.S.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner against taking "permanent
action" that would damage the free market.
Topolanek may get a chance to elaborate on what he meant. Obama
visits Prague April 4 and 5.
But the outburst highlighted differences between the U.S. and
Europe over the recovery with the 27-nation bloc bristling over
from U.S. criticism that it is not spending enough to stimulate
Still, European politicians went into damage control mode, with
some reproaching the Czech leader for his language and others
reaffirming their good diplomatic ties with the United States.
Topolanek comments Wednesday came a day after he was ousted by
his own parliament. The Czech Republic currently holds the
six-month rotating EU presidency but its leadership is in question,
with Topolanek hanging on to a caretaker government at home after
losing a "no confidence" Tuesday.
Europeans leaders hope the new U.S. administration will agree
with them on tightening oversight over the global financial system
- which they see as crucial to fixing the global economy.
Instead, the United States is focusing its efforts on economic
stimulus and plans to spend heavily to try and lift itself out of
recession with a $787 billion plan of tax rebates, health and
welfare benefits, as well as extra energy and infrastructure