Representatives of the three Czech ruling coalition parties are to meet again on Sunday to try and agree on concrete steps to cut the country's large budget deficit. Leaders agreed last week to slash spending and raise taxes to turn around the deterioration of Czech public finances, which is hampering its aim to join the euro zone several years after EU entry in May 2004. A strong consensus on the reform is key for the survival of the weak coalition, whose 101 seats in the 200-seat lower house of parliament have proven an unreliable majority.
A poll showing rising support for European Union membership was released on Friday along with a government report promising EU entry would net the country more than 24 billion crowns in the first three years. The polling agency CVVM said its latest survey found 58 per cent of Czech voters would support and 24 per cent oppose next month's binding referendum on EU enlargement. Among voters who said they would definitely cast ballots, the poll found 70 per cent backed enlargement. The Czech government is pushing for a "yes" vote in the mid-June referendum, which is scheduled to follow similar referenda in three other candidate states - Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia.
Doctors at the Czech military field hospital in Basra, southern Iraq, are working around the clock in an effort to keep up with long queues of sick and injured Iraqi civilians. The World Health Organization has warned about the threat of cholera in southern Iraq linked to poor sanitation and war but so far, cholera has not been detected by Czech doctors deployed in Basra. About 400 people regularly queue outside the hospital tents, but on their best day the doctors and nurses have treated only 77 patients. Most civilians suffer from infections, skin disease, diarrhoea and chronic ailments.
President Vaclav Klaus is planning a visit to the United States in mid June, the president's spokesman Tomas Klvana said after Mr Klaus's meeting with US Ambassador Craig Stapleton on Friday. According to Tomas Klvana, President Klaus has received invitations to several conferences in the United States but he is also to meet top-level officials. The presidential office did not confirm whether Vaclav Klaus was to meet President George W. Bush.
A new opinion poll has shown that Czechs are likely to approve membership of the European Union by a strong margin in next month's referendum. The weekly survey, conducted by the TNS Factum agency, forecast that 83 percent of those who intended to participate in the referendum would vote in favour, up from 76 percent a week ago and the highest figure since the polls started in February. The Czech Republic hopes to become a member of the EU in May of next year.
The Czech ice-hockey squad face Canada on Friday evening in the semi-final of the world championships in Finland. The Czechs went through to the semis after defeating traditional rivals Russia 3-0 on Wednesday evening in their quarter final match. NHL goal scoring champion Milan Hejduk led the scoring for the Czechs, world champions in three of the last four years.
People in the Czech Republic have been marking the 58th anniversary of liberation from the Nazis. Ceremonies were held across the country. In the town of Plzen in West Bohemia a procession of army vehicles drove through the city centre, to mark the arrival in May 1945 of U.S. troops led by General Patton. Meanwhile in the capital Prague, politicians and ordinary people remembered the 3,000 soldiers and civilians who died in the popular uprising, one of the last battles of the Second World War. A special ceremony was held outside the Czech Radio building, which played a crucial role in the uprising.
The first members of the Czech-Slovak anti-chemical unit in the Gulf are expected to fly home on Wednesday, together with Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik, who has been touring the region. The 30-member group has been in Kuwait since last September. Meanwhile, all members of the contingent, Czechs and Slovaks, will return home by early June. An army deputy chief of staff revealed that only logistical support for the 7th field hospital would remain at the US base at Camp Doha, while no Slovak troops were foreseen as working with the Czech field hospital. The Czech part of the anti-chemical unit, commanded by Dusan Lupuljev, consists of 400 soldiers, while Slovakia has 70 men and women in the Gulf. So far they have helped provide humanitarian aid in southern Iraq, including the distribution of water.
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