Czech leader's vanishing pen act is YouTube hit

A clip showing Czech President Vaclav Klaus spiriting away a pen during a press conference has become cult viewing on YouTube and inspired a tongue-in-cheek Facebook campaign.

The clip, copied from a report on Klaus's visit to Chile which was broadcast by public Czech television on Sunday night, was posted on Youtube the same day.

It had drawn more than 550,000 views on YouTube by Tuesday afternoon.

Klaus, sitting next to his Chilean counterpart Sebastian Pinera, is seen first opening a pen case lying on the table in front of him as the Chilean president gives him an enthusiastic welcome.

He takes the pen out, examines it carefully, hides his hands under the table, shuffles with his jacket, then buttons it up with both hands and finally lets his empty hands emerge above the table again to close the case.

Klaus, 69, is no stranger to international protocol. He has been Czech president since 2003 and was prime minister from 1993 to 1997.

On Tuesday he was quoted by the news site as saying it was "standard to take a pen from an event," stressing it was no golden pen but a ballpoint.

The clip, which uses red arrows and circles to trace the route of the pen to the president's pocket, has inspired a Facebook collection for Klaus.

Participants are to send pens to his office on May 2 "as the president obviously has nothing to write with", according to the Facebook group.