A Czech military police unit serving in Iraq is due to stay two months longer than originally planned, and will now remain in the country until the end of February. The move was approved by both houses of parliament on Thursday after a request from the Iraqi authorities to keep the 80-strong Czech unit in place until after planned elections in January, when tensions are expected to rise. The Czech officers, who are based near Basra in the south of Iraq, have been training local police, helping keep law and order and fighting insurgents.
Former dissident and Freedom Union MP Svatopluk Karasek has been appointed the government's human rights commissioner, after the recent resignation of Jan Jarab. Mr Karasek, who is a priest of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and also a singer, says he has no plans to relinquish his seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
Sparta Prague were beaten 4:1 by Manchester United in a Champions League football game on Wednesday night. The Czech team's only goal was scored by Lukas Zelenka. Sparta captain Karel Poborsky - a former Man United player - left the field to applause from the home crowd after being sent off minutes from the end after receiving a second yellow card.
Meanwhile the Senate has approved the discontinuation of compulsory military service in the Czech Republic from the beginning of next year. Now only the president's signature is needed to make the bill law, bringing to an end 140 years of military duty in this part of the world. The last group of Czech conscripts are due to be complete their service just before Christmas.
Czech Telecom has been fined 23 million crowns by the Anti-monopoly Office for abusing its dominant position on the telecoms market, a spokesman for the Office said on Thursday. Between February 2002 and January 2003 the company prevented rivals from entering the internet and data transfer markets using ASDL technology.
Most European Union states are over-protective of their labour markets and discriminate against service companies from central European countries, the Polish Finance Minister Jerzy Hausner and the Czech Labour Minister Zdenek Skromach said after talks in Prague on Thursday. Mr Hausner said there was no reason to maintain transition periods for workers from new EU countries.
Disappointment prevailed on Wednesday in the North Moravian village of Horni Benesov where Senator John Kerry's grandfather was born, as the Democratic candidate failed in his bid to become the next US president. One hundred years after his Jewish grandfather, Fritz Kohn, changed his name, converted to Catholicism and left central Europe to seek his fortune in America, many of Horni Benesov's 2,400 inhabitants had been hoping that a Kerry victory would bring prosperity to the once thriving mining town, now struck with high unemployment.
The number of tourists visiting the Czech Republic this year is expected to be up to 16 percent higher compared to last year, according to the government agency CzechTourism. By the end of the year, as many as 5.9 million tourists are expected to have stayed at hotels and other accommodation facilities in the Czech Republic. CzechTourism estimates that a further 2 million foreigners will have stayed with friends and relatives, not making it into the statistics. According to private agency Mag Consulting, the increase in the number of tourists in 2004 is estimated at only 8-9 percent, and the total of tourists using accommodation to 5.5 million.