Civic Democratic chairman Mirek Topolanek and Social Democratic chairman Jiri Paroubek met on Wednesday morning at the official residence of the prime minister. The two men—Mr. Topolanek as prime minister designate and Mr. Paroubek, the outgoing prime minister—are in the midst of intense negotiations over the formation of a new government. The Wednesday morning meeting came as a surprise, after Tuesday's scuffles over where a meeting between the two men would take place, and who was to be present. The Civic Democrats are currently trying to secure support for a minority government from the Social Democratic Party. Both Mr. Topolanek and Mr. Paroubek have now expressed confidence in a possible solution to the political deadlock, saying that it could be a matter of only a few more days.
At its cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the outgoing government approved 29 new candidates seeking judges' positions. In order to be called to the bench, President Vaclav Klaus must approve the individual candidates. In the past, President Vaclav Klaus refused to endorse judicial nominees who were less than 30 years of age; 14 of the new candidates waiting for approval are under the age of 30.
One of the Czech Republic's largest banks, Komercni banka, has confirmed that money disappeared from the accounts of ten clients using the on-line banking service, My Bank, or Mojebanka. A bank spokesperson said that Komercni banka's security system was not over-ridden, but that the thieves accessed information on personal computers, thus gaining access to accounts. Komercni banka has already covered the losses of its clients and a criminal investigation into the matter is underway. It is unclear how much money was stolen, or who the perpetrators are. Meanwhile, Komercni banka is introducing new safety measures for its on-line banking clients, combining the traditional computer access password with a code sent to the client's mobile phone.
A moderator at Czech TV, David Bork, has been fired from his position as host of the program "Udalosti" because of his handling of an interview with outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. The decision was made by Czech TV director Zdenek Samal, who says that Mr. Bork did not manage to hold his own in the televised discussion which aired on August 16. According to Mr. Samal, the moderator was ill-prepared for the discussion, and he also crossed the line by interrupting Mr. Paroubek several times. The decision is said to have been made independently; Mr. Paroubek made no complaints about the interview. David Bork remains employed at Czech TV, as a member of the economics department where he worked previously.
The outgoing Social Democratic cabinet is still discussing the possibility of sending Czech soldiers to Lebanon, to join an international peacekeeping force administered by the United Nations. According to Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, Friday's meeting of European Union foreign ministers will be key to the Czech Republic's decision. Mr. Svoboda says that it is important to clarify whether the Czech mission's mandate would be one of peacekeeping and observation, or whether the units would also be charged with disarming Hizballah. The foreign minister is also concerned about the costs of such a mission, and says that it must not jeopardize ongoing Czech peacekeeping in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, or Bosnia-Hercegovina. Mr. Svoboda's public statements on the issue of Czech involvement in Lebanon have been more cautious than those of the outgoing prime minister, Jiri Paroubek.
High-alert security measures in place at Prague's Ruzyne airport since August 10 have been called-off, says an airport spokesperson. The extra precautions at customs were put in place after the discovery of a planned terrorist attack originating in London and aimed at the United States. Since then, travelers leaving Prague for destinations in the United Kingdom were forced to undergo extremely thorough screenings at passport control. However, the ban on fluids and gels aboard planes flying to the U.S. remains in place.
A planned round of talks on a new government was called off on Tuesday after the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene failed to reach agreement on who should attend. Prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek and the outgoing prime minister Jiri Paroubek are trying to reach agreement on the conditions under which Mr. Paroubek's Social Democrats would be prepared to tolerate a minority Civic Democrat government. The conditions discussed include the set-up of the future government, its policy programme and its term in office. The Social Democrat leader, whose position was bolstered by the even division of forces between the left and right parties in the lower house, stalked out of Monday's talks saying there would be no further negotiations with the Civic Democrats but later changed his mind after what he described a s a conciliatory gesture from the winning party. The prime minister designate Mirek Topolanek said the negotiations with the Social Democrats should not last longer than a fortnight - with or without a deal.
World number nine Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic confirmed Tuesday that he will not be playing in the US Open because of a back injury. "It's over for the US Open and it seems the break could be even longer," the player told the CTK news agency. Stepanek, 27, has a 30-15 record this season, winning his first ATP title in Rotterdam, and reaching the finals in Hamburg and Wimbledon quarter-finals. A question remains over his participation in the Davis Cup World Group playoff tie against the Netherlands from September 22-24.
Hundreds of Greek and foreign tourists, including many Czechs, were evacuated from two hotels in northern Greece because of a forest fire, which broke out on Monday. About 90 Czech children spent the night on a beach as the flames were progressing towards their hotel. According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, all Czech nationals in the area are safe. A decision is imminent on whether to bring them back home and busses are on standby for that purpose.
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