Two Czechs were among 13 people sentenced to prison in the Antilles on Thursday for drugs smuggling. The two Czech citizens were sentenced to 30 months in prison by a court on the island of Sint Maarten, after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 10 kilos of cocaine out of the country. The two had visited the Antilles - which are part of the Netherlands - as tourists. The remaining 11 people sentenced were Slovaks.
The Chinese embassy has issued a statement strongly criticising the decision to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Prague. The Dalai Lama arrived in Prague on Saturday afternoon to preside over a three-day international conference on Tibet which gets underway on Sunday. It is the first time that the gathering - sponsored by a German foundation - has been held in Prague. The embassy accused the conference - which is being held under the auspices of the Czech Senate - of supporting activities which damage Chinese national identity and hurt Czech-Chinese relations. Senator Jan Ruml, himself a former anti-Communist dissident, said the meeting was part of the democratic process and the criticism was unfounded.
Another suspected case of BSE or mad cow disease has been reported in a herd near Prachatice, South Bohemia. If confirmed, it would be the Czech Republic's sixth case of the disease since 2001. The State Veterinary Authority said further tests were being carried out and the final result would be known by Wednesday, although the Authority said it was almost 100 percent certain that the animal was infected. Almost half a million cattle have been tested for BSE since the first case was confirmed two years ago.
Czech customs officers have seized packages of cocaine and marihuana on a bus heading for Prague from Rotterdam. The seizure was made at the Rozvadov crossing on the Czech-German border. Customs officers found 36 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of 30,000 crowns (around 1,000 US dollars) and small amounts of marihuana. Police were unable to identify the owners of the packages and no arrests were made.
Hundreds of people waited for hours outside a bookshop in Brno on Saturday to attend a book signing by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ms Albright, born Marie Korbelova in Prague, is in the Czech Republic to launch the Czech translation of new book of memoirs, "Madam Secretary." Ms Albright, who speaks fluent Czech, will meet a number of senior officials during her visit including former president Vaclav Havel, who is a close personal friend. Her visit ends on Tuesday.
And President Klaus has denied that Thursday's speech to deputies in the lower house was an attack on the centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Mr Klaus said he had merely identified several serious problems facing the country. In his speech Mr Klaus criticised the record budget deficit proposed for 2004, and also raised objections to the government's package of finance reforms, which must be signed by the president before they become law.
President Vaclav Klaus indirectly criticised the policy of Vladimir Spidla's coalition government in a speech delivered in the lower house of the Czech Parliament on Thursday. President Klaus pointed to the record-high deficit of the draft 2004 state budget, the planned public finance reform and the growth of the state power at the cost of civic freedom. Mr Klaus also called on Czech politicians to act in unity when dealing with key issues of the state. President Klaus's speech in the lower house on Thursday was his first address to deputies since his election in February this year.
The main opposition Civic Democrats have called on Interior Minister Stanislav Gross and police chief Jiri Kolar to resign over what the party describes as the country's "corrupt and unprofessional" police force. Civic Democrat deputy chairman Ivan Langer told reporters the two were responsible for a range of problems in the police force, including rampant corruption, distortion of statistics and low respect among the public. The police recently launched high-profile campaigns targeting bad drivers and illegal prostitution. The opposition and some in the media have dismissed the campaigns as publicity stunts.
The Czech Republic and Austria will exchange areas of land adding up to more than 40,000 square metres along their common border, under a bill passed in the lower house on Wednesday. The redrawing of the Czech-Austrian border is to allow for rivers gradually changing their course and will also improve access to private property. The bill does not account for any transfers of population. The Czech Republic has been locked in dispute with Poland for 45 years over similar territorial changes on the Czech-Polish border.
NATO has formally launched its rapid response force, which includes the Czech Republic's elite nuclear, biological and chemical unit. The 9,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) will be capable of deployment to troublespots anywhere in the world within five days. When complete, the force should number more than 20,000 troops. Among them is the 500-strong Czech-led anti-chemical unit based in Liberec, which saw action in the 1991 Gulf War and the US-led invasion of Iraq. The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999.
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