Czech Foreign Minister Karel Swarzenberg has strongly defended the
deployment of a US missile defence system in Europe, saying that a
security threat from Iran could not be ruled out. "Nobody knows what
may happen in the next decade, and if someone plays with fire it is good
to be prepared" Mr. Scharzenberg told the DPA news agency, ahead of
his scheduled visit to Germany on Friday. The Czech Foreign Minister said
that he was fully aware of Germany's concerns with regard to the plan and
did not take them lightly.
Prague has opened talks with Washington on the possible hosting of a radar base on its territory but no commitment has as yet been made. A Czech government delegation is to travel to Washington on Thursday to discuss the matter in greater detail. The US missile defence system, which would be located jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland, has evoked mixed reactions on the continent. Although the European Commission has said it would not interfere in Prague's decision making, some EU critics say a bilateral defence agreement between two EU members and the United States would not serve Europe's best interests.
The wife of fugitive Czech billionaire Radovan Krejcir who was arrested in South Africa last month is planning to ask the South African authorities for political asylum. Krejcir, who is prosecuted for extensive fraud and conspiracy to murder in the Czech Republic, filed an asylum request last week. The couple fled the Czech Republic in 2005 and started a new life in the Seychelles, where they were protected by the fact that Radovan Krejcir had acquired Seychelles citizenship. He allegedly left the Seychelles using a false passport in order to arrange a new life for his family in South Africa. The Czech authorities have requested his extradition.
An inspection team of the Interior Ministry has concluded that the police team which investigated the leak of the so-called Kubice report to the media had overstepped its powers in ordering the wiretapping of 46 prominent politicians, lawyers and managers. Just days before last year's parliamentary elections Jan Kubice, head of the elite unit for fighting organized crime, told a parliamentary committee that Paroubek and other top officials had hindered his unit's work in order to shield Social Democrat colleagues and that criminals had infiltrated the civil service. The report was leaked to the press and outgoing prime minister Jiri Paroubek accused his main rivals, the Civic Democrats, of having fabricated the charges to swing voters ahead of the poll. Before leaving office he launched the mentioned investigation into the leak.
The Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands want to give national parliaments a veto over proposed European Union legislation under a treaty to replace the stalled EU constitution. The German daily Handelsblatt said the three states had asked EU president Germany to strengthen a provision in the defunct charter whereby one-third of national legislatures may send bills back to the European Commission for redrafting. Handelsblatt said the trio want to turn the "yellow card" into a "red card", meaning a minority of national parliaments would be able to block any new EU law. The proposal is one of several that will be aired when senior officials of the 27-nation bloc meet in Berlin next Tuesday for the first joint session to thrash out the outlines of a new slimmed-down treaty reforming EU institutions.
President Vaclav Klaus has launched a stinging attack on the design of a new National Library building planned for Prague's Letna Plain. In an article in Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes, Mr Klaus said the green blob-like building by Prague-born London-based architect Jan Kaplicky was "extremely immodest and wilful to the point of arrogance". The president hit out at what he said was a one-sided discussion of the building, in which the views of the "unqualified" were disregarded. Mr Klaus also took a swipe at Jan Kaplicky's work in general, saying he had not built much and most of his ideas were restricted to models in exhibitions. Last week the president said he was prepared to use his own body to prevent the building of the library, which is set for completion in 2010.
On an official visit to Pakistan Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek praised Islamabad's contribution to the fight against terrorism, saying that Pakistan played an important stabilizing and peacekeeping role in the region. At a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz called on the international community to participate to a greater extent in the post-war reconstruction of neighboring Afghanistan. Business and trade were also high on the agenda of the talks. The Czech company Moravske Naftove Doly is well established in Pakistan, mining some 300 million cubic meters of gas a year, and the Czech Republic is seeking new investment opportunities in the country.
Deputies and senators for the ruling Civic Democratic Party will propose President Vaclav Klaus as their candidate in the 2008 presidential elections. Mr. Klaus' five year term in office expires next year and he has consistently topped the popularity ladder as the country's most trustworthy politician. However his re-election is far from certain since the votes of the Civic Democratic Party alone would not suffice. The chairman of the Civic Democrats' deputies group in Parliament Petr Tluchor told the CTK news agency on Wednesday that the Civic Democrats would enter into talks with their coalition partners in order to try and drum up enough support for their candidate's re-election. While the Greens have made it clear that they will not support Vaclav Klaus' re-election the Christian Democrats have not taken a clear stand on the matter. No other candidate has yet been named.
Czech hopes of playing in the final of the World Ice-Hockey Championship in Moscow were dashed on Wednesday as the Czechs suffered a humiliating 4:0 defeat at the hands of the Russian team. The Russians, chasing their first world title since 1993, dominated the match on home ground igniting a 14,000 strong crowd of fans. The hosts became the first semi-finalists at the championships and will take on the winner of Thursday's quarter final between the United States and Finland.
The Czech Republic has in the past served as a gateway to Europe for more than 30 people suspected of terrorism, according to a new report quoted in Wednesday's Hospodarske noviny. The annual report from the police's organised crime unit says that over 30 people subsequently arrested or convicted in other states in connection with terrorism gained Czech visas and travelled through the Czech Republic to west European countries. Police have not revealed whether any of the 30 is believed to have been connected with either 9/11 or the bomb attacks on Madrid.
Railway workers' unions are set to take a strong stand against public finance reforms being put forward by the government. They are mainly opposed to a planned increase in taxation of the cheap tickets and food they receive. Union boss Jaromir Dusek said not even Hitler had taken such advantages from rail workers. Speaking after talks with opposition leader Jiri Paroubek on Tuesday, Mr Dusek said his union was discussing joint action with the Confederation of Trade Unions.
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