Czech officials are investigating what may be the country's fifth case
of mad-cow disease. A six-year-old milk cow on a farm in the south
Moravian town of Dolni Lazany tested positive for Bovine Spongiform
Encephalopathy, BSE, after she was slaughtered on April 29. According
to an Agriculture Ministry official, the infection was found by two
rapid tests and the ministry is waiting for a confirmation by the State
Veterinary Authority which should come on Tuesday or Wednesday. Four
cows of similar age in the 70-strong herd and one descendant of the
infected cow will be slaughtered as a precautionary measure. Among the
country's previous BSE cases, two were reported last year and two in
Scientists have linked BSE to the human brain-wasting variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, which has killed about 100 people in western Europe in the past decade. No proven case of the human form of the disease has been recorded in the Czech Republic. BSE, believed to originate from cattle feed, has also been found in several animals in neighbouring Poland and Slovakia.
Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the junior coalition partner, the
Freedom Union Petr Mares said on Sunday that he would on principle
approve of possible stationing of US army units in the Czech Republic.
Speaking in a televised debate Mr Mares said he would not object to
stationing allied units on Czech territory if it were in harmony with
the Czech Republic's commitments as a NATO member and if it improved
the country's defence ability. According to speculation, the United
States is considering moving its troops from Germany eastwards. While
the possibility of the deployment of US troops is accepted positively
in Poland, Czech politicians' positions on the issue differ.
President Vaclav Klaus has adopted a reserved stance and pointed to a parallel with the presence of the Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia after it was occupied by the former Warsaw pact armies in 1968. Reacting to President Klaus's statement Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that American troops could be stationed in the Czech Republic.
For the first time, both units of the Temelin nuclear power plant started operating at full power on Saturday, two and a half years after the opening of the plant, which has been the object of protests and hunger strikes. Both the reactor's 1,000-megawatt units are to run at full power for a trial period before they are giving a passing grade and licenced for commercial electrical production. Although given a green light by international and Czech atomic power experts, the plant has been plagued by technical problems and delays since its first unit began operating in October 2000. The technical faults and Temelin's proximity to the Austrian and German borders have stirred years of protests in those countries. For nearly three years, Temelin protesters have blocked roads at the Czech-Austrian border, staged hunger strikes, threatening to block the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union in 2004.
Czech hygiene officers and representatives of the Health, Interior, Foreign and Industry Ministries are finalising the preparation of registration cards that passengers flying to the Czech Republic would be asked to fill out should an epidemic of the pneumonia-like disease SARS hit Europe. Prague's chief hygiene officer Vladimir Polanecky has said that in order to isolate persons infected with SARS it is necessary to know whom they have been in touch with. Passengers would hand in the registration cards to immigration officers, who would store them for twenty days. Afterwards the cards would be shredded.
Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik is travelling to Kuwait on Monday to visit the Czech-Slovak NBC unit stationed at Camp Doha. On Tuesday Minister Tvrdik is to travel to the Iraqi city of Basra where a Czech military field hospital is being built. On Wednesday Mr Tvrdik will meet Kuwaiti officials. Czech anti-chemical experts have been deployed in the region as part of the US-led Enduring Freedom operation. The Czech military field hospital was expected to begin full service on Tuesday but construction has been delayed due to various complications.
Czech tennis professional Bohdan Ulihrach, who on Friday received a two-year doping ban and was fined over 43,000 dollars, has vowed to fight on. Ulihrach tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone in October last year during an ATP event in Moscow. He then requested an independent Tennis Anti-Doping Program tribunal to look into the matter and they ruled he had committed an offence. As Bohdan Ulihrach had voluntarily stopped playing on the ATP tour in October after first testing positive, the two-year ban will expire in October next year. Ulihrach said on Sunday that the verdict was a "shock". Ulihrach's coach, Martin Nekola said that they would appeal against the verdict. Bohdan Ulihrach has won three singles titles and has been in the top 100 of the world for seven years, winning over 3 million dollars in total prize money.
Both units of the Temelin nuclear power station have started operating at 100 percent of capacity for the first time, supplying around 2,000 MWH of electricity to the grid. The plant has thus reached its maximum output - seventeen years after its construction started. Both units could produce about 48,000 MWH of electricity per day. The decision on the construction of the nuclear power station was made in 1980 and works began in February 1987. After 1989 the country reconsidered its electricity consumption and in March 1993 the government decided to complete the plant with only two units instead of four. The construction of Temelin was accompanied by many problems, which provoked a wave of protests in neighbouring Austria and Germany.
The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has said that American troops could be stationed in the Czech Republic. Mr Svoboda, who is attending an informal meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union member and candidate countries in Greece, said that history teaches us that security in Europe is not ensured without the United States. Foreign Minister Svoboda was reacting to President Vaclav Klaus's interview published in Saturday's edition of the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, in which Mr Klaus said that he was against the stationing of US units in the Czech Republic. President Klaus said that owing to their recent history Czechs were very sensitive to the topic of foreign military units being deployed on Czech territory. Alluding to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, Mr Klaus said in Sueddeutsche Zeitung that any new stationing of foreign troops would probably not be welcomed. According to some speculations, the United States is contemplating removing its troops from Germany eastwards.
The Czech Air Force could obtain 14 old Tornado F3 fighters from the
British Army, which would replace the MiG-21 fighters whose lifespan
expires soon, either for free or for a symbolic price, the daily Pravo
wrote on Saturday, citing Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik. However,
the Defence Ministry should consider whether the operation of the old
British planes would be profitable.
According to the paper, army experts need to ascertain, for instance, whether general repairs would have to be made on the planes and how much the pilot training would cost. They are also studying whether the adjustment of airport infrastructure to the operation of Tornados would prove worthwhile. On Wednesday, Minister Tvrdik discussed the possibility of obtaining old Tornado fighters with his British counterpart Geoff Hoon.
Pits of explosives apparently abandoned by the Iraqi army have been discovered near a Czech army field hospital in the Iraqi city of Basra. According to Czech explosives expert Vladimir Kral dozens of anti-tank shells, grenades and rocket accelerators were found in water-filled pits by playing children. The children reported the ordnance to hospital doctors working nearby. British soldiers in charge of the area have taken control of the site, which also includes a building that locals say was used for torturing prisoners during Saddam Hussein's rule. The explosives were lying only 200 metres from the field hospital's surgical centre, which has been treating civilians and soldiers for about a week. Among the patients are children injured by explosives left over from the latest war.
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