The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, has expressed disappointment at the failure of a European Union summit to decide on a constitution. Speaking after talks collapsed in Brussels on Saturday, Mr Spidla said he hoped the outstanding issues would be settled in the near future. He also said he was not in favour of a two-speed EU with countries in favour of faster integration leaving other members behind. However, if such a two-speed Union does emerge, the Czech Republic should be among the more dynamic group, Prime Minister Spidla said.
Senior Czech politicians have welcomed the arrest of Saddam Hussein by United States forces. President Vaclav Klaus said the capture of the former dictator of Iraq should speed up the process of consolidation in the country, while Prime Minister Spidla said the transfer of power to the Iraqi people should now take place more quickly. Foreign Minister Svoboda, meanwhile, praised the work of the United States intelligence services in the capture of Saddam.
A former Iraqi official has told United States investigators that he
did not have a meeting in Prague with the suspected leader of the
September 11 attacks, the New York Times reported on Saturday. Ahmad
Khalil Samir al-Ani denied meeting Mohamed Atta in the Czech capital.
Though Czech officials had initially said that the two men had met, the CIA and FBI eventually concluded that no such meeting took place. A possible connection between Iraq and the September attacks was a reason used by some conservatives in the US to justify invading Iraq earlier this year.
The Chamber of Deputies has launched a campaign against pawn shops which deal in stolen goods, passing a bill on Friday under which shopkeepers would have to ascertain the identity of clients. The bill's proponents said there were 1,800 pawn shops in Prague alone, many of which were open around the clock.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and other
senior officials have returned to the Czech Republic after a summit to
decide on a constitution for the European Union ended in failure. Talks
broke down on Saturday after Spain and Poland refused to surrender voting
rights they won at the Nice summit, three years ago.
A Czech official told the CTK news agency that the inter-governmental conference could continue in the New Year, when Ireland takes over the presidency of the EU. The Czech Republic and nine other mostly former communist countries are due to join the Union on May 1.
A bill was also passed on Friday allowing the building of two weirs on the Elbe River in north Bohemia, despite protests from the environment minister, Libor Ambrozek, and environmental groups. Mr Ambrozek said the building of the weirs would damage the eco-system in the areas in question and was in contravention of EU norms.
The Czech prime minister, Vladimir Spidla, is in Brussels for a summit to decide the shape of the European Union's first constitution. Among the issues to be discussed are voting powers, the number of commissioners and national vetoes on foreign, defence and taxation policy. The Czech Republic is one of ten, mostly ex-communist countries set to join the EU next May, in what will be the biggest enlargement in the Union's history.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies on Friday passed a bill allowing Czech nurses, midwives and other health workers to work in the European Union. The bill, which has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president, also allows for health workers from other EU states to work in the Czech Republic.
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