The police have arrested three men for allegedly trying to sell the Czech-produced plastic explosive Semtex. The men were caught in possession of 11 kilogrammes of the explosive and five fuses at a motorway rest stop in central Bohemia on Thursday night. Semtex is produced by a company called Explosia, which is based near the east Bohemian town of Pardubice.
The prime minister, Social Democrat leader Vladimir Spidla, has proposed forming a minority coalition government with the Christian Democrats, the Christian Democrats' Milan Simonovsky said on Friday, after a member of the other party in the current three-party majority coalition, the Freedom Union, voted against a government tax bill. The Freedom Union's Hana Marvanova voted with opposition parties against the bill, which was defeated by one vote. The package of tax reforms was intended to raise 10 billion Czech crowns to help deal with the devastation caused by August's floods, estimated to be up to 90 billion crowns.
Some Freedom Union MPs have called on Hana Marvanova to give up her post in parliament after she voted against the governing coalition, Mrs Marvanova herself said after Friday's dramatic vote, adding that she had not made any decisions regarding her future. She said she had voted on the basis of the policies for which she had been elected. Mrs Marvanova, one of the deputy chairs of the lower house, stepped down as leader of the Freedom Union after June's elections.
Prague's public transport authority has released a statement defending its actions during last month's catastrophic flooding in the capital, saying that the Prague metro was closed in time, in accordance with flood measures. The authority has also indicated that anti-flood barriers, based on set standards and norms, were in place but simply ineffective against the record-high waters. A transport authority spokeswoman said on Thursday that an earlier closure of the metro system would have changed little in the outcome; she indicated that, on the contrary, an earlier closure of the metro would have complicated the evacuation of Prague residents from heavily flooded areas.
The government has approved a bill on elections to the European Parliament. The bill sets down the rules for election of Czech representatives to the European Parliament, and if approved by the Czech parliament, will take effect on the day the Czech Republic joins the European Union. Czech MEPs will have a five-year mandate, one year longer than the mandate of members of the Czech lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. EU enlargement is expected at the beginning of 2004, and elections to the European Parliament will be held in the same year.
Meanwhile in New York itself, the former Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan opened the U.N. General Assembly by calling on the international community to continue the fight against terrorism. Mr Kavan, who was elected President of the General Assembly earlier this year, told delegates the international coalition against terrorism must be upheld. The assembly is due to hold a commemorative service on Wednesday for those who died. Mr Kavan will preside over the General Assembly's 57th annual session until next September.
Analysts say foreign currency revenues from tourism fell by over 10 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2002, mainly due to the strong crown. They said the strong crown was responsible for 95 percent of the fall, while the floods in August could be responsible for a 7 - 8 percent fall in the number of hotel bookings by the end of the year.
Politicians, church leaders and members of the public have held a minute's silence for the victims of last year's attacks on New York and Washington, as the world marks the first anniversary of September 11. Czech politicians, church leaders, traders on the stock exchange and many others stood in silence to remember the dead. People also gathered at the statue of St Wenceslas on Wenceslas Square, in a silent show of respect.
The Czech Republic has repeated its commitment to host the NATO summit in November, in the wake of the devastating floods that hit the country in August and amid fears of a possible terrorist attack. The Czech carmaker Skoda has promised free armoured luxury cars to VIPs, and President Havel announced he was arranging a Prague Castle dinner for international military chiefs. The NATO summit is expected to draw up to 12,000 participants, including senior military officers, defence ministers and up to 46 heads of state from around the world.
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