Joint Czech-British military exercises are to continue in south Moravia despite the deaths of six British participants in a helicopter crash on Thursday. However, helicopters being used in the exercises will remain grounded until the cause of the crash has been ascertained, a spokesperson for the Czech Air Force said on Friday. Some reports suggest the four soldiers and two crew were killed after their aircraft hit high-tension wires. The joint exercises began earlier this week and are due to continue until next Friday.
Disagreements have emerged within the ruling Social Democrats over pay rises for the police, the fire service and prison guards, the newspaper Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, a former interior minister, has called for provisions for the pay increases in next year's budget, while some MPs from the party say they would not support the move unless teachers and doctors also got rises.
President Vaclav Klaus has arrived in Kyrgyzstan as part of an official tour of Central Asia. Speaking in the capital Bishkek on Friday, Mr Klaus said people in the Czech Republic had forgotten the region in recent years as they concentrated on joining the European Union. He said it was important to re-establish connections with Central Asia, and that there was more to the world than Europe. The Czech president is due to move on to Uzbekistan before returning to Prague on Wednesday.
An express train from Pilsen to Brno got de-railed on Thursday morning due to a wrongly positioned shunt. No one was hurt in the accident. According to Czech Railways there was a problem with technology and the shunts were being switched manually in the course of the morning. The signalman responsible for the accident has suffered a nervous break down and has had to be hospitalized. Material damage has been assessed at close to half a million Czech crowns.
On a working visit to Germany, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on Thursday criticized a French proposal to axe structural funds for new EU members. In talks with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer, minister Svoboda pointed out that the debate on the future EU budget would be taking place alongside a debate on the future EU constitution and that it would be impossible to keep the two issues separate. Every country in the EU cares about finances, the Czech Foreign Minister said. In view of the financial burden of the recent EU expansion, some of the economically stronger nations such as France and Germany are now considering lowering their annual contribution to EU coffers in the years between 2007 and 2013. This would have an adverse effect on the newcomer states.
President Vaclav Klaus has officially pardoned three North Korean seamstresses facing charges for theft earlier this year, bringing legal procedures against them to a halt. The incident with which the seamstresses were charged took place in April, when they allegedly assaulted a Czech TV cameraman filming outside the facility where they worked. The seamstresses were then charged with stealing material from the camera itself. The presidential office has said Mr Klaus decided in favour of halting legal procedures against the three as potential damages to the charged were greater than the damages in the incident, an estimated 20, 000 crowns.
One hundred Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan under the US-led military operation "Enduring Freedom" are to return home as early as next week. A Czech Defence Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday the soldiers, who have been serving in Afghanistan on a six-month mission, will return to the Czech Republic between September 15th and 20th. Replacement troops are not currently being considered. Much of the contingent is made up of an elite forces unit specially geared towards the fight against terrorism. Under American command, the Czechs participated in efforts to track down armed groups of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the Afghan mountains. The unit's deployment marked the Czechs' first direct involvement in a combat operation since World War II.
The Czech Republic crushed Sweden 6-1 on Tuesday night to secure a spot in the 2004 Ice Hockey World Cup semi-finals in North America, where they will probably face off against Canada. The Czech team, whose mentor and coach Ivan Hlinka died in a car accident last month, had lost 4-3 to the Scandinavian team during their first meeting on Wednesday last week and had not been favoured to win Tuesday's match. However, the Czechs started out strong and never relinquished their lead over the Swedes, who couldn't seem to organise their play to prevent sloppy defence and shaky goalkeeping, as well as to create more chances in offence.
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