The United States will consider ways of simplifying the procedure of visa applications for Czech citizens. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said during talks in Prague on Wednesday that Washington was aware of the complications surrounding the process of visa applications for Czech citizens and would do its best to simplify matters as far as possible. He said that lifting visa regulations for Czech citizens was not on the agenda at present and that a certain degree of security would need to be maintained in view of the existing anti-terrorist measures. A US envoy is to visit Prague later this month to discuss the matter with Czech officials. Prague had been hoping for a reciprocal arrangement, since American citizens do not need visas to enter the Czech Republic.
The Czech government has agreed to extend the mission of its military police officers deployed in Iraq by two months. According to the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda the extended period - from January till the end of February - is related to security concerns over elections due to be held in Iraq at the start of the year. Washington has said it expects an increase of violence ahead of the elections. The Czech military police contingent is deployed near the town of Basra in southern Iraq where it has helped to train hundreds of Iraqi police officers since December of 2003.
Czech troops may work with a German military team to help prepare infrastructure and security in Northern Afghanistan for October's presidential election, German Defence Minister Peter Struck said on Wednesday. The Czech Republic is prepared to make 40 soldiers available in the near future. The German-run unit, based in the town of Faizabad, is the second so-called "provincial reconstruction" team. It is currently staffed by 30 German soldiers and is to include a total of 85 troops. Berlin has so far failed to bring other countries, notably the Netherlands, on board. In a related development, the Czech defence ministry said that 100 Czech soldiers, most of them special forces troops, serving in Afghanistan would be repatriated this month after ending a six months tour of duty.
Police have arrested a man suspected of the murder of a Czech priest. The murder took place on Saturday in the Usti nad Labem region, during an apparent robbery attempt. The victim was 78-year-old Ladislav Kubicek. The suspect, 26-year-old Rudolf Samko, allegedly hit the victim in the head several times before setting the building he was in on fire. Mr Samko was found on Tuesday, a few metres away from a Czech-Austrian border crossing in southern Moravia.
The Czech Republic puts less money into its education system than most other members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD. This according to the OECD's latest statistics in Education at a Glance - a comparative study of education systems of member countries - published on Tuesday. While the Czech Republic spent a mere 4.2 percent of its GDP, other OECD members have spent 6.2 percent on average. Education at a Glance is a publication that is updated every year and enables countries to see themselves in the light of other countries' performances.
Czech police said on Tuesday that a man suspected of trying to kill a casino owner in Prague last month by detonating a hand grenade under his car on a busy street has been arrested in Israel. The failed attack left eighteen people, mainly foreign tourists, injured. The suspect is said to be a 27-year-old man from a former Soviet state, who is now an Israeli citizen. He was identified after his DNA was found on clothes left in a basement near the crime scene along with a wig, a gun and another hand grenade. Police believe he left the Czech Republic on the same day of the attack. The Czech authorities have asked for him to be extradited to the Czech Republic.
Several schools throughout the Czech Republic observed a minute's silence on Tuesday in memory of the victims of the Beslan school siege last week, which saw at least 330 killed and over 700 injured. Last Wednesday, European Parliament President Josep Borrell called onto thousands of schools around Europe, to hold a minute of silence on September 14.
Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, was named on Monday as the winner of the 200,000-dollar Seoul Peace Prize for his efforts to promote democracy. He is the seventh winner of the prize which was established in 1990. Previous recipients include the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and international relief organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam. The peace foundation praised Mr Havel as "living testimony to the democratisation" of his country. Vaclav Havel was involved in the human rights movement in the face of the Soviet invasion in 1968 and became one of the prominent figures among Czech intellectuals calling for democracy as an alternative to communism. He served as president of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and between 1993 and 2003 he was president of the Czech Republic.
The Justice Minister, Pavel Nemec, has said he is considering lowering the age of criminal responsibility for children from 15 to 12 years in cases of particularly serious crimes. Children should be held criminally responsible in cases of murder, grievous bodily harm and robbery. The latest debate over lowering the age of criminal responsibility for children was sparked recently by a number of murders committed by children. In August, a group of children killed and robbed an elderly woman in her home and last week, police identified a 14-year-old boy as the murderer of a 13-year-old girl, his classmate, who was found stabbed to dead in January this year.
Jan Beranek was re-elected the chairman of the non-parliamentary Green Party at its national conference on Saturday, narrowly defeating his only rival, the Prague branch head Petr Stepanek, by nine of the total of 193 votes cast in the ballot. The vote marked the culmination of recent internal disputes in the party over its management style. With 900 members, the Greens say they are aiming to enter the lower house in the 2006 general elections.
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