Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has officially informed her NATO counterparts about the U.S. request to the Czech Republic to build a radar base on its territory. A spokesperson for the Czech Defence Ministry told the press that Ms Parkanova had told an informal meeting of foreign ministers from NATO countries that the USA had asked the Czech Republic to start negotiations on the issue. He added that the ministr will also keep the Czech Republic's allies informed of further developments,
Russian President Vladimír Putin has once again attacked American plans to build a missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking at an international security summit in Munich, Mr Putin said that the United State's defence plans were unnecessary and would only precipitate a new arms race. Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg described the Russian president's speech as harsh and said that Mr Putin was now adopting a position similar to that of the former Soviet Union. If the American missile defence plans are approved by parliament, it will see the construction of a radar base in the Brdy region south of Prague as part of a new missile defence system in Europe.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said that the Christian Democrat deputy prime minister Jiri Cunek will remain in office despite being charged by police for taking bribes. Police have charged the Christian Democrat leader with receiving money from a building company when he was mayor of the town of Vsetin five years ago. The opposition Social Democrats have criticised the prime minister for not dismissing Mr Cunek. Prime Minister Topolanek said that Mr Cunek should be allowed to try and clear his name before any further action is taken against him. Meanwhile, in a separate development, Petr Hurta, the head of the building company at the centre of the Cunek case has also been arrested in connection with the case.
The Social Democrat's central executive committee has also confirmed that it is against the building of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. The shadow minister for foreign affairs Lubomir Zaoralek told the press that the party would only change its position on the base if the base were to become part of a NATO defence system. He also said that the Social Democrats would be pushing for a national referendum on the issue.
Czech tennis player Lucie Safarova has inflicted a shock defeat on world number two Justine Henin 7:6, 6:4 to progress to reach the final of the Paris Open. The twenty-year old, who reached the quarter-finals of last month's Australian Open, will try to win her third WTA title on Sunday when she faces the winner of Saturday's other semi-final between Amelie Mauresmo and Nadia Petrova.
Czech daily Mlada fronta reports that declassified files have been found showing that Czechoslovak military counter intelligence trained secret commando units in the 1970s, including around 100 special agents who were active in what was then West Germany. The paper says that these agents were deployed in Germany to detain or kill key figures such as politicians, influential economists and army officers. They were also trained to occupy crucial facilities, including US nuclear missile silos, radio transmitters, radar bases and power plants. Mlada fronta adds that experts are not sure what happened to this network of German agents after the Velvet Revolution. The agents were an extremely confidential unit and there is no data on them in the central register of the communist secret police.
The central executive committee of the Czech Social Democrat Party (CSSD) has expelled deputy Milos Melcak from its ranks for supporting the centre-right government in a parliamentary confidence vote last month. Mr Melcak was one of two social democrat deputies who defied party orders and abstained from a confidence vote in January, which enabled the current coalition government consisting of the centre-right Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Green Party to take power. The social democrat party has gone ahead with Mr Melcak's expulsion despite the fact that his local organisation in Zlin decided not to take any action against him. Mr Melcak has so far not commented on this latest development. He will be allowed to appeal the decision of the social democrat party's national conference in Brno next month. The other rebel social democrat MP Michal Pohanka has already resigned from the party of his own accord.
A new statue dedicated to legendary Czech comic actor Vlasta Burian has been unveiled at his grave in Prague's Vysehrad cemetery. Several dozen people attended the unveiling ceremony to mark the 45th anniversary of the actor's death, including the head of the National Theatre's ballet section Vlastimil Harapes and actors Lubomir Lipsky and Marta Vancurova. The statue made by Tomas Vejdovsky consists of a hand making a dramatic gesture. It replaces a bust of Burian, which was stolen from the actor's grave five years ago.
Prague's Mayor Pavel Bem, has come under criticism for planning to take almost two months of unpaid leave to climb Mount Everest. Mr Bem, well-known for his passion for the outdoors, has said it was his childhood dream to reach the summit of world's highest mountain. He intends to leave for the Himalayas in March and return sometime in the second half of April, depending on weather conditions. Some city councillors have opposed the plan. European Democrat Jiri Witzany says the post of Prague mayor is comparable to that of a manager at a large company, saying it would be unthinkable for such a manager to take two months off.
In an interview for the financial newspaper Hospodarske Noviny on Friday, President Vaclav Klaus conditionally backed the idea of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. In the interview he suggests any agreement will require fine-tuning on "thousands of details". Mr Klaus has also made clear the issue should be discussed within the broader context of the Czech Republic's ties to NATO and the European Union, not just Czech-US relations. The US is hoping to build its radar site in the Czech Republic as part of a broader missile defence system capable of preventing potential missile attacks on Europe.
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