The chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats Mirek Topolanek has said his party is not discussing possible support for their presidential candidate Vaclav Klaus with the Communists Party. Mr Topolanek also said the two unsuccessful attempts to elect a new president were not a failure of deputies and senators. According to him, the underlying cause was the method of elections to the lower house, which does not make it possible to form a strong government and subsequently to elect a president.
The deputy chairman of the Social Democrats Zdenek Skromach has said that university professor Jan Sokol is the only presidential candidate now being discussed by the three parties in the governing coalition. Mr Skromach said he did not expect hundred percent support from the junior coalition partners, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, adding that a handful of Social Democrat MPs had not yet decided on whom to vote for in the upcoming election. However, Minister Skromach said he believed that politicians had learnt a lesson from the two previous inconclusive attempts to elect a Czech president, in which Social Democrat candidates, former Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures and former party chairman and Prime Minister Milos Zeman failed in the first round.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has expressed support for Turkey in its request for NATO assistance preceding a possible military conflict with Iraq. Speaking at a joint press conference in Paris on Thursday, the Czech foreign minister underscored the fact each NATO member state had the right to ask its allies for help if it felt it was under threat. Mr Svoboda added it was important the request had a positive response, saying it was needed to preserve NATO's "credibility", not only with member states but also with new countries invited to join last year. Mr Svoboda's French counterpart Dominique de Villepin did not comment on the statements. So far, France, Germany, and Belgium, have refused to approve NATO plans to protect Turkey in case war breaks out between the US and Iraq.
Unions at the Dukovany and Temelin nuclear power stations called a strike alert at noon on Wednesday in protest at planned lay-offs. Unions at Temelin came out in support of their colleagues at Dukovany after they announced their planned protest action on Tuesday. According to Dukovany trade union spokesman Jiri Jedlicka, several mayors of the towns in the region have already voiced their support of a possible strike. While specific plans for redundancies have been made at Dukovany, unions at Temelin have yet to obtain any concrete dates and figures. The unions are now waiting for the outcome of promised talks with the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has said he believes a third attempt to elect a new Czech president will be successful. Mr Spidla said on Tuesday he expected those members of his own Social Democrats who have promised to support former education minister Jan Sokol in the February 28 vote to keep their word. On Monday the prime minister and the heads of the two other parties in the governing coalition discussed the issue of support for Mr Sokol's candidature. The Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union have said they would vote for Mr Sokol, if it is clear the Social Democrats are united behind him, something some observers say is unlikely. The Czech Republic has been without a president since Vaclav Havel stepped down on February 2, after two attempts by parliament to elect a successor in January proved inconclusive.
Unions at the Dukovany and Temelin nuclear power stations are to call a strike alert on at noon Wednesday in protest against planned lay-offs. Unions at Temelin came out in support of their colleagues at Dukovany after they announced their planned protest action on Tuesday. While specific plans for redundancies have been made at Dukovany, unions at Temelin have yet to obtain any concrete dates and figures.
The Czech Foreign Minister, Cyril Svoboda, is to discuss the situation in Iraq and European Union issues with his French counterpart in Paris on Thursday. Unlike France, the Czech Republic has said it will support a possible United States-led war against Iraq if the United Nations passes a resolution allowing for such an intervention. Czech anti-chemical units in the Persian Gulf have been reinforced for that purpose.
The leaders of the three parties in government are to meet for late-night consultations on Monday in an effort to reach agreement on a joint candidate for the third round of presidential elections, due to take place on February 28th. After a series of futile attempts to find a widely acceptable candidate, the Social Democrats have now suggested the nomination of former education minister and university professor Jan Sokol. The two smaller parties of the governing coalition -the Christian Democrats and Freedom Union - have indicated that Mr. Sokol would be acceptable for them, but a great deal depends on the Social Democrats themselves, who are divided over Jan Sokol's nomination. If the third round of presidential elections fails to produce a successor to the former president Vaclav Havel, Parliament will work on a Constitutional amendment which would enable direct presidential elections.
The Czech regional development minister, Pavel Nemec, assured European Commissioner Michel Barnier that the Czech Republic would try to spend money allocated for the country in EU's ISPA funds for regional development and environmental protection. There are 50 million euros remaining in the ISPA fund that the Czech Republic is required to spend by the end of this year or forfeit completely. The Czech Republic has had problems presenting feasible environmental projects, especially given the fact that financial support from EU funds is conditional on part of the budget being covered by the recipient country.
The ruling Social Democratic Party is divided over the possible nomination of former Education Minister and university Professor Jan Sokol as the party's candidate for the presidential office. Party leader and Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla asked Mr. Sokol to stand as his party's candidate on Friday. Some other political parties admitted they might support Mr. Sokol. However, the Social Democrat MPs are divided over his nomination. In the previous two unsuccessful election attempts, they were unable to agree on any of the candidates officially nominated by the party leadership. February 28th has been set as the official date for a third round of Czech presidential elections to try and elect a successor to former president Vaclav Havel, whose term in office ended last Sunday.
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