The Czech National Security Council met on Tuesday to prepare for the upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the meeting, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the Czech Republic would not support any proposals for NATO's engagement in Iraq. This country is, however, willing to participate in peace-keeping missions in the Middle East. In February, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda offered to act as a mediator to solve conflict on the borders between Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. According to Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who will be leading the Czech delegation to Istanbul, the fact that the next summit will be held in Turkey shows that NATO hopes to have a more clearly defined role in the Middle East. The Security Council on Tuesday also approved the country's military strategy but was not able to agree on a common Czech standpoint on European security and defence policy.
Czech soldiers specialised in anti-biological and chemical warfare may train their Greek counterparts, in order to help Greece optimize security during the Olympic Games in Athens this summer. The Greek Army decided to have its own soldiers trained by the specialised Czech units, which were originally meant to be part of security forces at the Olympic Games, but which the Greek government found to be too expensive. The Defence Ministry is currently in talks with the Greek Army and is expected to sign an agreement by the end of the week.
Czech farmers will no longer have to slaughter an entire herd if individual cattle contract mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE), Czech Television reported on Tuesday. With Czech herds often totalling several hundred cows, the Czech Republic has been opposed to EU regulations calling for the immediate slaughter of the entire herd when a single case of BSE is confirmed. In the last 3.5 years, 1,591 cows were slaughtered because of nine confirmed cases of BSE. At a meeting of agriculture ministers in Brussels this week, Czech Agriculture Minister Jaroslav Palas managed to convince Brussels to allow cows from a herd with one confirmed case to continue to produce milk. Since the beginning of 2001, over 570,000 Czech animals have been tested for BSE. The most recent case of detected BSE, the eleventh case in the country's history, was detected in South Bohemia on April 30.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach has said he would resign if he fails to push through higher pensions and family benefits for next year. Under a coalition agreement pensions should grow by 500 to 600 crowns and benefits for families with children should also increase by several hundred crowns. Altogether the higher pensions and benefits should cost the state an additional 13 to 14 billion crowns. According to minister Skromach the state can afford it since state budget revenues are growing.
Survivors of traffic accident victims, whose death has been caused by others, will now receive one-off compensation ranging from 80,000 to 240,000 crowns. Under a new insurance law the compensation will be paid out automatically from the insurance of the person who caused the accident. In the past survivors had to laboriously claim the compensation with courts. The highest amount would go to close family members or people living in a common household.
The Plzen regional court met on Monday to decide whether to re-open the case of Jiri Kajinek, whom it had sentenced to life for the contract murder of two people in 1998. The court is to decide whether to reopen the case on the basis of new testimonies. Of the three witnesses who testified on Monday, two claimed that they were certain Kajinek was not the killer. There have been allegations in recent months that Kajinek may have been framed by the police. Kajinek himself has never confessed to the murders. His case evoked great public interest, especially after he managed to escape from a top security prison in the year 2,000.
A police spokeswoman has confirmed that last month the Czech police stopped a number of illegal arms and ammunition shipments to Iraq and several Asian and African countries. Two Czechs were arrested and charged with violating laws on trade in weapons and the police confiscated a large number of ammunition and machine guns. Some of the ammunition was apparently destined for Iraq government units but Czech intelligence was afraid it could fall into the hands of anti-government forces.
A Prague court of appeal has overturned a three year prison sentence for an officer of the former communist secret service to a five year suspended sentence. Petr Zak was involved in the so called Asanace clearance operation aimed against dissidents of the former communist regime. They were persecuted and physically and emotionally abused with the aim of making them flee from their homeland. The former communist interior minister Jaromir Obzina who ordered the operation is dead and was never punished for the deed. Former stb officers, such as Zak claim they were merely obeying orders.
The Prague International Marathon was won on Sunday by Kenyan runner
Barnabas Koech; among the women Ethiopian runner Leila Amman came in
1st. Mr Koech came in at 2 hours, 12 minutes and 15 seconds, while Ms
Amman completed the race in just over 2 hours 30 minutes. The big news
for Czech sports fans, meanwhile, was that 3rd place in the men's race
was clinched by Robert Stefko, a naturalised Czech from Slovakia who
received his citizenship in March. Stefko finished the race in 2 hours
12 minutes 35 seconds, becoming the first Czech to make the winner's
podium in the marathon's ten year history. Mr Stefko also automatically
qualified for the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.
In all, a little under 4, 500 runners took part in this year's Prague International Marathon, though many of those who took part complained about this weekend's unusually chilly weather.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus commemorated the 120th anniversary of the birth of Czechoslovakia's second president Edvard Benes, in a more than one hour long ceremony attended by hundreds on Sunday. The ceremony took place in Sezimovo Usti in south Bohemia, where Mr Benes once maintained a personal villa and was later buried. On Sunday President Klaus, criticised his predecessor's treatment by those he said "would like to rewrite history". Similarly, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said that Mr Benes had been demonised in connection with the expulsion of some two-and-a-half million ethnic Sudeten Germans after World War II. According to Mr Spidla, Mr Benes was a "democratic politician who had done all he could" within the circumstances of his day.
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