PRAGUE/KUWAIT 25. March (ČTK) – The Kuwaitis knew that Gumárny Zubří was sending lower-quality CM-4 masks instead of the CM-6 masks they ordered. According to Jindřicha Vaculína, Gumárny’s assistant director, the shipment could not have come as a surprise – the Kuwaitis chose the CM-4 as a replacement based on samples they sent. “We signed a contract for the shipment of 5,000 CM-4 masks,” Vaculin said at a press conference.

The agreement states that as soon as CM-6 masks are delivered, the CM-4 masks will be returned. “To this day we have not received any returns,” Vaculin stated.

Vaculin reacted to the comments made by Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdík, who alleged that different masks were sent to Kuwait than were ordered. According to Tvrdík, the Kuwaitis were not satisfied with the shipment, and therefore cancelled the contract. Now, according to Tvrdík, the Kuwaitis are using masks from South Korea. Vaculin, however, does not agree with this statement: “The contract was not cancelled, but interrupted, because there is a war on and we are not able to ship masks to Kuwait. The Kuwaitis have not cancelled the contract.” The masks are, according to Vaculik, now ready.

Gumárny Zubří began talks with Kuwait about an order for CM-6 masks for its oil industry workers last February. “Talks were complicated and long, because the Kuwaitis are careful,” Vaculin said. The outlines of the contract started to become visible in the third quarter of last year, and the contract for the supply of 13,325 CM-6 masks was signed this February. They were to have been delivered by the end of March. But because the attack on Iraq was begun, [the Kuwaitis] began pressing Gumárny to deliver immediately.

“The manufacture of gas masks is very expensive and we cannot afford to have 1,000 pieces in the warehouse. We could not start production earlier than when we had a signed contract,” Vaculín explained, when asked why he did not have more masks available.

Tvrdík found fault with the fact that the moment the contract was signed, they surely knew that Gumarny was not able to adhere to it. “The order has been manufactured,” Vaculin countered, adding that the deadline for the order still has not passed.

The Czech ambassador to Kuwait, Jana Hybášková, also is convinced that the contract between the company and the Kuwaitis was completed too late. “It was not possible to complete in time, because the war started,” she pointed out. “It was not ready for signing until a couple of days before the start of allied operations, due to delays on the Kuwaiti side,” Hybášková noted.

In the meantime, while the CM-6 masks were being built, Gumárny offered a shipment of older civilian masks, which according to Vaculin, the Kuwaitis agreed to. Samples shipped to Kuwait were judged suitable for workers in the oil industry, and a certificate of their suitability was signed by Czech-Slovak Chemical Batallion Commander DuÅ¡an Lupuljev. But because Gumárny didn’t have even the CM-4 masks in stock, they borrowed some from fire brigades’ warehouses.

According to Tvrdik, the Fire Department’s General Director Miroslav Å těpán at one time thought the shipment was humanitarian aid to Kuwait. This was denied by Å těpán today. From the beginning he allegedly knew the reasons the masks were being borrowed. Gumárny, according to him, must have agreed to the fact that if the masks were used in Kuwait, they would have to be replaced. Whether the Fire Department was paid for the masks, Vaculín refused to say, citing “business secrets.”

According to Hybáškové, the Kuwaitis did not like the CM-4 masks that were delivered. “The masks are fully functional and in working order, but they do not have the required design. The Kuwaiti market is very demanding, and the company’s approach was not up to their standards,” the ambassador said.

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