The Czech ice hockey team ended fourth at the world ice hockey championships in Helsinki, Finland, losing 2-4 to Slovakia on Saturday. The Czechs, world champions in three of the last four years, lost their chance to fight for another gold on Friday, when they were defeated by Canada 8-4 in the semi-finals.
The Czech police recovered paintings stolen from a museum devoted to one of the country's most famous artists, Josef Lada, and broke up a theft ring. Eight paintings were stolen from the Lada museum in the late artist's hometown of Hrusice, near Prague, in October but only five of them have been recovered. The paintings were found in Prague with a large number of antiques and other valuables stolen from nearly 60 homes, cottages and shops across the country since September.
Pilots for the Czech Republic's national carrier Czech Airlines have been staging a work slowdown since Thursday that delayed many flights and is likely to continue throughout the weekend. The slowdown has affected at least one-third of the carrier's 150 daily flights which have been delayed by 20 minutes on average. The job action stems from a contract dispute between the airline and a union representing its 350 pilots. The two sides have been negotiating for a new contract since January. A new round of talks involving the Czech Ministry of Labour is expected to begin Monday.
The health condition of three Czech soldiers who were injured in a road accident in Iraq on Friday has been improving. Two of them were released from hospital, but the third one remains in intensive care with serious injuries. The accident took place some 150 kilometres south of Baghdad. Experts are still investigating the accident which is thought to have been caused by exhaustion of the driver.
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.
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.
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.
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