US President Barack Obama says he wants to work with Russia to resolve a
nuclear stand-off with Iran, but has denied reports he offered to slow
deployment of a missile defence shield in exchange for Moscow’s help.
Washington has signed deals with Prague on basing part of the defence
system, a radar base, in central Bohemia, though the Czech Parliament has
not yet voted on the matter. The New York Times reported this week that Mr
Obama had sent a letter to Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev,
suggesting he would pull back from deploying the missile shield if Russia
helped stop Iran from developing long-range weapons. Speaking on Tuesday,
however, the US president said the letter simply reiterated statements he
had made saying the defence system was directed towards Iran, not Russia.
Mr Obama said obviously if Iran’s commitment to nuclear weapons was
lessened there would be less pressure for or need for a missile defence
The Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, said on Wednesday that nothing had changed regarding plans to build a US radar on Czech territory. He said if Iran gave up its nuclear ambitions the whole situation would change and the missile defence system could be discussed again.
The Czech government has invested considerable political capital in backing the US radar base, which opinion polls have consistently suggested most Czechs are opposed to.
The Supreme Administrative Court has rejected a government proposal to ban
the Workers’ Party. The government says the small far-right grouping
contains extremists and is attempting to subvert democracy. However, the
court said the government had failed to prove claims of a connection with
the neo-Nazi group National Resistance, or that the Workers’ Party was
trying to change the political system by violent means.
The Workers’ Party came to national attention last year when members fought with police after being prevented from marching on a largely Romany district in the town of Litvínov in north Bohemia.
Vietnamese citizens have asked to be allowed to remain in the Czech
Republic if they lose their jobs. At a meeting with Interior Ministry
officials, leaders of the Vietnamese community said they were capable of
supporting one another in the event of being laid off, arguing that
possible deportation was too heavy-handed a measure on the part of the
Czech authorities. The Vietnamese leaders said their compatriots would
prefer to stay in the Czech Republic and do community service, for
The Czech government recently launched a scheme to give laid-off workers from non-EU states EUR 500 and a ticket home. So far around 550 people – most of them from Mongolia – have signed up for the programme, which is open to 2,000 foreigners in its first phase. Only 20 or 25 people from Vietnam have taken up the offer.
The editor-in-chief of Právo says he has been repeatedly warned recently that the newspaper would lose advertisers if it continues to portray the opposition Social Democrats in an unfavourable light. In an article in Wednesday’s edition, Zdeněk Porybný said the advertisers concerned were companies whose management were appointed or influenced by the state. The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiří Paroubek, has denied the allegations, calling on Mr Porybný to back up his statements. The left-leaning Právo grew out of the former communist newspaper Rudé Právo.
The minister of agriculture, Petr Gandalovič, is putting forward a plan to help food producers hit by a slowdown in payment and difficulty in securing loans, the news website euro.cz reported. Some CZK 800 million is being earmarked for the programme, which was not included in the recently announced government stimulus package and has to be approved by the cabinet.
The Czech police have deported 12 people after checking the papers of 4,300 foreigners in operations in a number of cities on Tuesday. They registered nearly 300 contraventions of the country’s law on foreigners and levied fines of nearly CZK 200,000, a spokesperson said. Police also handed out flyers with information about the government’s voluntary repatriation scheme.
Meanwhile, the Czech media have been speculating on plans for President Obama’s two-day visit to Prague, which begins on April 4. Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper Právo quoted a diplomatic source as saying that preparations were being made for Mr Obama to walk across Charles Bridge and up to Prague Castle. There has also been speculation that the US president may give an open-air speech in the Czech capital. However, no official details of his visit have yet been released.
The leaders of the Civic Democrats and the Greens have agreed to a proposal from the other party in the governing coalition the Christian Democrats to push for a reduction in the number of seats in the Chamber of Deputies from 200 to 199. The chairmen of the three parties are set to continue discussions on other possible changes to the Czech Republic’s electoral law.
A Vietnamese citizen named Le Kim Thanh, who briefly went on hunger strike in protest at a deportation order, is to be expelled from the country in the next few weeks, a spokesperson for the Czech police said on Wednesday. The man lost his right to remain in the Czech Republic when he lost his job and his case has received a good deal of attention. While the human rights minister, Michael Kocáb, said Le Kim Thanh should be allowed to stay in the country, the minister of the interior, Ivan Langer, said he had broken Czech law and had to go. His lawyer is appealing the expulsion order.
A proposal allowing businesses to write off Value Added Tax for all new cars purchased was passed by the lower house of Parliament. The move forms part of the government’s raft of measures aimed at tackling the financial crisis. Proposals by the opposition and dissident members of the main government party, the Civic Democrats, to cut existing VAT levels and incentives for scrapping old cars were defeated.