Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has confirmed that if parliament approves the sending of a Czech military field hospital to the Gulf it will be based in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The prime minister made the statement at the start of a debate on the issue in the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday. The debate had been scheduled for Thursday but was brought forward due to the speed of developments in the region. The Senate is also discussing the matter, with the approval of both houses widely expected. Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told the Senate that the first doctors could fly out on Thursday afternoon and be at work 24 hours later.
Thirty water treatment devices, aimed at helping to secure safe drinking water for Iraqi citizens in Basra, southern Iraq, will be sent by the Czech Republic as part of planned humanitarian aid. Czech parliament is to decide this week on whether it will send its 7th field hospital to the region. Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik said on Monday that the water treatment technology would be sent in lieu of one hundred Czech special forces soldiers previously intended for the mission. Mr Tvrdik said that necessary defence support for the field hospital would be provided by military police.
The Czech government has refined its set of tasks ahead in the continuing war on terrorism, government spokeswoman Anna Starkova has revealed. On Monday the government agreed to place greater emphasis on protecting information systems, optimising communication between intelligence services, and improving co-operation with international anti-terrorism experts.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, Foreign Affairs Minister Cyril Svoboda, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus will sign the EU accession treaty on behalf of the Czech Republic on Wednesday, at the EU Summit in Athens. Mr Klaus expressed his desire to sign the document, although originally the third signatory was meant to be the Czech Republic's former chief negotiator to the EU, Pavel Telicka. The Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda expressed satisfaction on Monday over the Czech president's decision. It remains unclear whether any of the presidents from the other nine EU candidate countries will be signing their countries' respective treaties.
Police and customs officers in western Bohemia have arrested ten people, including eight foreign nationals and two Czechs, who were allegedly involved in the large-scale smuggling of heroin from the Balkans to Germany. The group had been monitored by a special police and customs team since last August. A total of 8.5 kilograms of heroin was seized during the operation. All those arrested have been taken into custody and if convicted, could face up to 15 years in prison.
Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has indicated that the Czech embassy in Baghdad will reopen in the near future, saying that he was now looking to raise Czech diplomatic representation in Iraq from the post of charge d'affaires, to ambassador. Mr Svoboda indicated that he was already considering several possible candidates. Meanwhile, Mr Svoboda added that the Czech embassy in Baghdad had not been hit by looting like the Slovak embassy last week. The Czech site had been closed down a month before the US-led military action against Iraq began in March.
Police have charged two men in connection with the kidnapping of Giuseppe Roselli, chairman of the board of directors of the Union Group, which controls some 75% of the troubled small lender Union Banka. The kidnapping, which took place one week ago, saw Mr Roselli and his personal bodyguard held for 24 hours, before being released unharmed. Police so far are revealing no further details as to possible motives for the kidnapping, though Mr Roselli's spokesman has indicated that the banker had been forced to sign a number of documents for alleged misuse.
Czech Ombudsman Otakar Motejl has warned against the introduction of a direct presidential election in the Czech Republic. Mr Motejl cited potential dangers of a public vote, including manipulation with public opinion. Under the current law, Czech presidents are elected at a joint session of both houses of parliament. However, a bill on direct presidential election was approved by the lower house in the first reading earlier this week and politicians across the political spectrum suggested that the next president will be elected in a direct election after Vaclav Klaus's term expires in 2005.
Rescuers have recovered the body of a two-and-a-half year old boy who went missing on Thursday in the village of Borovnice, North-Eastern Bohemia. The body lay in a snow-covered field about six kilometres away from his home. Hundreds of volunteers assisted by a police helicopter with thermo-vision were searching for four days the local forestland and hillsides for the boy who often rambled with his dog.
The popular Czech novelist Zdenek Jirotka died at the age of 92 early on Saturday. Jirotka was an excellent storyteller, author of several comic novels, short stories, TV and radio plays. He was best known for his satiric novel Saturnin set in the 1920s, telling the stories of a young upper class man and his servant who never ceases to surprise his master with original solutions to everyday problems.
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