A 49-year old man was killed on Friday afternoon in the northern town of Decin when a tree knocked down by a gust of wind fell on his car. Wind and rainstorms that lashed the country on Friday caused temporary blackouts across the Czech Republic. Some roads in higher altitudes are closed due to heavy snowfalls and some are blocked by fallen trees. For the first time in several years, Prague Castle has been closed to visitors to prevent injuries caused by falling tiles. Open-air Christmas markets in the centre of Prague were also closed.
The lower house has approved a bill allowing for registered partnerships for homosexual couples. The bill had been rejected on four previous occasions, the last time by just one vote. On Friday all present MPs the Christian Democrats voted against the bill, which must now go before the Civic-Democrat dominated Senate.
The state may start paying higher insurance contributions for the jobless, pensioners and students from next year. Under a bill passed by the lower house on Friday, the current 481 crowns should be increased to 513 crowns (21 dollars) a month. The legislation is yet to be approved by the Senate. The chamber also approved an increase in parental allowance, paid to families with children between 6 months and 4 years of age, to 7000 crowns (290 dollars) a month. If the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by the President, it will come into effect in January 2007.
Swedish terrorist suspect Oussama Kassir, who was detained in Prague on Sunday, has accused the FBI of "manufacturing" a case against him, adding that it was "politically directed against Islam". In a statement released by his Czech lawyer, the 39-year old Swedish national said the United States wanted to embarrass the Swedish and Czech governments. Mr Kassir, the subject of an international arrest warrant for allegedly abetting terrorists was arrested as he stepped off a plane at Prague airport on Sunday evening on his way from Stockholm to Beirut. Sweden has never agreed to extradite Mr Kassir, who originates from Lebanon and has Swedish citizenship.
Meanwhile, the Czech labour minister, Zdenek Skromach, says if other EU states do not lift restrictions on Czech workers, the government could consider introducing similar measures against Romania and Bulgaria, which are due to join the bloc in 2007. Of the "old" EU members, only the UK, Ireland and Sweden have opened their labour markets to workers from the states which joined last year.
Former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, has appealed to Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek not to scrap existing coal mining limits in the north of the country in a bid to save miners' jobs. In an open letter, Mr Havel highlighted the fates of two villages threatened with destruction if limits set in 1991 are relaxed. A government decision on the issue is expected in the next few weeks.
The Czech prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, says he will keep fighting for more money for the Czech Republic during negotiations on the European Union's 2007-2013 budget in Brussels. Mr Paroubek said his main objection was that the budget proposed by Britain includes development fund calculations made on the basis of figures for Czech GDP growth which are below the current level of 5%. The prime minister said this could cost the Czech Republic up to 500 million euros.
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