In a major step towards European Union harmonisation, Czech Republic telecom operators on Sunday renumbered all of the country's 11.5 million mobile and land-line telephones. A confusing, outmoded numbering system was replaced with a nine-digit number for each of the country's 7.8 million mobile phones and 3.7 million land lines. In addition, the number of area codes was reduced to 14 from 159. The new system brings the country in line with EU standards, allows for more competition among operators, and sets the stage for the introduction of new services.
Politicians in the Czech Republic have welcomed the results of the elections in neighbouring Slovakia, which were a victory for the governing pro-European parties and a defeat for the nationalist former prime minister Vladimir Meciar. Mr Meciar's party won the highest number of seats, but he remains isolated and looks unable to form a government. The Czech President Vaclav Havel said the elections proved that Slovakia wanted a reform-minded government to lead the country into NATO and the EU. Czechoslovakia split in 1993, and Slovakia soon fell behind under Mr Meciar's authoritarian rule.
The Czech Republic's fixed-line and mobile phone operators say the renumbering of the country's eleven million telephone numbers went smoothly on Saturday evening, with no major problems reported. All fixed-line numbers in the Czech Republic now consist of nine digits, with the area code incorporated in the number and the zero dropped. There is no change for calling the Czech Republic from abroad - all numbers remain the same.
A deputy prime minister in the Social Democrat government has said if the present centre-left coalition falls, his party will include the Communist Party in talks on support for a minority government. Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Rychetsky said if the coalition was brought down by the right-of-centre Freedom Union, the Social Democrats would look for support among all parties in parliament, including the Communists. The Social Democrats passed a resolution several years ago banning co-operation with the Communists at national government level.
The governor of the North Moravia and Silesia region, Evzen Tosenovsky, has said he will challenge Vaclav Klaus for the leadership of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats at the party's national conference in December. Mr Tosenovsky said his candidature was a reaction to the party's poor showing at the June elections. Mr Klaus, prime minister in successive right-wing governments until 1997, came under pressure to resign as party leader following the elections, and said he would offer up his post at the party conference. Mr Tosenovsky is the first Civic Democrat member to say openly he will challenge Mr Klaus for the leadership.
President Vaclav Havel, currently on a six-day state visit to the United States, has met the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York. The two men stressed the importance of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Iraq. President Havel said any resolution on Iraq should lay down clear demands, but if such demands were rejected, the path to military action would be open. Mr Havel stressed that any action should be carried out by a broad international coalition, possibly involving NATO.
The final depositions have been heard in the trial of two former high-ranking communist officials. Milous Jakes, who is now 80, and Jozef Lenart, 79, face charges of assisting treason, for their part in the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. The two men attempted to 'legalise' the invasion by forming a 'workers' government. A verdict in the trial is expected on Monday.
Great Britain deported some 48 Czech asylum seekers on Friday and plans to deport more in the coming week, Ladislav Balaz of the Trans Europa Roma Federation told reporters. Meanwhile, the British Home Office said it had flown 28 Czech citizens home two weeks ago. The number of Czechs seeking asylum in Britain - most of whom are Romanies - is constantly increasing, according to UK authorities. The Romanies say they suffer violence and constant discrimination in the Czech Republic.
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