One hundred Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan under the US-led military operation "Enduring Freedom" are to return home as early as next week. A Czech Defence Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday the soldiers, who have been serving in Afghanistan on a six-month mission, will return to the Czech Republic between September 15th and 20th. Replacement troops are not currently being considered. Much of the contingent is made up of an elite forces unit specially geared towards the fight against terrorism. Under American command, the Czechs participated in efforts to track down armed groups of Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the Afghan mountains. The unit's deployment marked the Czechs' first direct involvement in a combat operation since World War II.
On Wednesday the government approved the possibility to deploy over 10,000 soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles in severe emergency situations. The cabinet approved six possible scenarios in which military troops could be deployed, including the event of a terrorist attack, extensive floods, forest fires, serious industrial accidents, cases of mass migration, or widespread epidemics. The document was put together by the ministries of the interior and defence, in cooperation with additional experts.
Within the crisis scenarios, the military could be called to help guard the state border, provide evacuation for inhabitants, help in the construction of emergency access roads and bridges, as well as provide accommodation facilities.
The Czech government has put off further discussion on the state budget for 2005. On Wednesday members of the ruling coalition met for a little over an hour to discuss their differences, before postponing further talks on the budget for the next two weeks. The government must submit a state budget draft by the end of September. So far, the three parties in the ruling coalition have failed to agree on the volume of spending: the smaller parties would like to see some 8 billion crowns in cuts.
President Vaclav Klaus has officially pardoned three North Korean seamstresses facing charges for theft earlier this year, bringing legal procedures against them to a halt. The incident with which the seamstresses were charged took place in April, when they allegedly assaulted a Czech TV cameraman filming outside the facility where they worked. The seamstresses were then charged with stealing material from the camera itself. The presidential office has said Mr Klaus decided in favour of halting legal procedures against the three as potential damages to the charged were greater than the damages in the incident, an estimated 20, 000 crowns.
In all likeliness, former Czech president Vaclav Havel will not be the only Czech candidate in the running for the Andrej Sacharov Award for the spirit of liberty, nominated by members of the European Parliament. Czech left-of-centre euro-parliamentarians are also considering nominating renowned Czech author Arnost Lustig. Also being considered are students in Belarus actively opposed to the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
Controversial Czech-born financier Viktor Kozeny, wanted on charges of fraud in both the Czech Republic and the U.S., has filed against the Social Democrat government at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Mr Kozeny, who lives in the Bahamas, filed his lawsuit on the grounds - in his view - that the Social Democratic Party has violated the Convention of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Kozeny filed the lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic is seeking Mr Kozeny's extradition from the Bahamas on the grounds of a 79-year-old treaty between Czechoslovakia and the British Commonwealth. The Czech Republic and the Bahamas do not share any similar diplomatic agreements.
Pyrotechnical teams are in the process of clearing away some 450 kilograms of munitions found under the town square in Caslav, near Kutna Hora, south-east of Prague. The munitions stockpile, which contained both German and Soviet-issue weapons, was discovered during routine construction work. A nearby pensioners' home was evacuated for safety reasons, as weapons were removed, but residents have since returned to their homes. Other weapons found in the stockpile included 135 grenades.
The Czech national football side is preparing to face the Netherlands on Wednesday evening, in their opening qualifier for the 2006 World Cup. After facing each other in the last two European championships, the Czechs and the Netherlands have become something like traditional rivals. At Euro 2004 in June, the Czechs downed the Dutch in a 3-2 turn-around thriller. Wednesday's game will see many key players, however, missing from the Czech line-up: regular team captain Pavel Nedved and fellow midfielder Karel Poborsky.
!8-year-old Czech tennis player Tomas Berdych has failed to go through to the U.S. Open quarterfinals, underway in Flushing Meadows, New York. Berdych faced German national Tommy Hass in a 7-6, 6-1, 7-5 loss, but had the upper hand in the first set tie-break. He subsequently lost control of his game at 6-3, allowing Haas to come back.
Tomas Berdych was the last Czech in the U.S. Open, the 4th and final grand-slam event of the tennis season.
The Czech Republic crushed Sweden 6-1 on Tuesday night to secure a spot in the 2004 Ice Hockey World Cup semi-finals in North America, where they will probably face off against Canada. The Czech team, whose mentor and coach Ivan Hlinka died in a car accident last month, had lost 4-3 to the Scandinavian team during their first meeting on Wednesday last week and had not been favoured to win Tuesday's match. However, the Czechs started out strong and never relinquished their lead over the Swedes, who couldn't seem to organise their play to prevent sloppy defence and shaky goalkeeping, as well as to create more chances in offence.
Thursday should be sunny with daytime temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius.
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