The Czech Muslim community has distanced itself from the violent protests taking place around the world against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in western newspapers. The protests were among the topics discussed on Monday by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and representatives of Muslim organisations in the Czech Republic. The Czech Muslim community amounts to a few thousand, several hundred of those being Czech converts.
The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who is visiting North Africa, has met his Tunisian counterpart Mohamed Ghannouchi to discuss mutual trade, cultural exchange and the Czech experience of EU membership. Prime Minister Paroubek told reporters that areas potentially interesting for Czech companies are mainly the Tunisian infrastructure, the pharmaceutical industry and tourism. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Paroubek is scheduled to meet Moroccan officials.
As he marks a hundred days in office, Health Minister David Rath has told reporters he believes the time has been well-spent. Among his achievements Mr Rath listed the fact that the debt of the General Health Insurance Company (VZP) has been reduced, the flow of money in the health insurance system has improved and standards for the assessment of quality of health care have been introduced. On the other hand, Minister Rath has been repeatedly criticised by a number of professional associations over his policies.
The Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek has called the Central Infection Commission to meet on Tuesday in response to the growing number of cases of bird flu in Europe. The body should discuss possible measures of prevention of an outbreak of the infection. The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has recently been detected in birds in Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Bulgaria.
Fire fighters evacuated a primary school in east Bohemia on Monday morning after its roof had shifted under a weight of snow. The layer of snow was up to 2 metres thick. Also on Monday morning, fire fighters in north Moravia evacuated part of a warehouse after its roof buckled under a weight of snow. No one was hurt in either case. In the course of this winter a number of roofs have collapsed in the Czech Republic because of continuous heavy snowfall and insufficient maintenance.
The former head of the National Security Office, Jan Mares, has admitted to mistakes made in office, including accepting a luxury watch as a Christmas present from a group involved with a well-known bankruptcy judge under investigation by police. Jan Mares stepped down as the head of the National Security Office last week under suspicion of corruption. On a TV discussion programme on Sunday he maintained his innocence, saying he had no idea that the watch was a luxury antique. He later returned the gift, but allegedly only after media reports surfaced over the Berka gang's alleged criminal activities.
President Vaclav Klaus has rejected a written request by the prime minister urging the president to sign a bill on same-sex partnerships, which has been passed in both houses of Parliament. Through a spokesman on Sunday Mr Klaus criticised the prime minister, indicating he would not allow himself to be dragged into what he called a 'pre-election campaign'. The bill on same-sex partnerships recognises gays and lesbians' right to inherit from their partner, and also allows access to medical information. But, the president has suggested the bill is a threat to traditional institutions - namely traditional marriage. Mr Klaus has until next Thursday to decide whether to sign the bill, to veto it, or to allow it to pass into law minus his signature.
Cross-country skier Katerina Neummanova finished second in the Women's 15 kilometre pursuit at the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Neumannova finished just two seconds behind the winner Kristina Smigun of Estonia. Neumannova's silver finish is the first medal for a Czech in the Olympics which kicked-off Friday. Despite the close finish, Ms Neummanova's trainer expressed disappointment. Ms Neumannova has four medals from previous Games, (three silver and one bronze), but has yet to win gold.
The Communist Party has outlined areas it considers key in its campaign
programme leading up to the national election this year. On Saturday
Deputy Chairman Jiri Dolejs told journalists that top priorities
included maintaining economic growth at a minimum 5 percent. The party
would also like to focus on the health sector, employment, as well as
education. The Communist Party, meanwhile, remains highly critical of
the Czech Republic's membership in the European Union, and has called
for the country's withdrawal from NATO.
In recent days, MPs from both the Communist party and the Social Democratic Party combined in Parliament to push through a number of key laws, including the new labour code. But, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, the head of the left-of-centre Social Democrats, has repeatedly ruled out forming a future coalition counting the Communists as members.
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