A conference in Prague aimed at supporting the Cuban dissident movement has called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners. The event, which has brought together several former European and American heads of state and government, is organized by the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba at the initiative of the former president Vaclav Havel. Representatives of several countries at the summit said that their governments should instruct their embassies in Cuba to help those persons who work for the establishment of democratic values on the island. The former Czech president Vaclav Havel described Cuba as a giant prison and called for international mobilization to help bring about change. "We have to ring alarm bells," Mr. Havel said, "with every additional signature and every new conference we make another step towards freedom in Cuba."
The Czech coalition government is finalizing the details of the draft state budget for 2005. After coalition leaders agreed to reduce the budget deficit by ten billion crowns last week, Cabinet ministers are now debating where the money should be saved. Several ministries have offered to make budget cuts but the Cabinet is still about two and a half billion crowns short of the target figure. Christian Democratic Party leader Miroslav Kalousek has urged ministers to consider further reducing the number of state employees. The draft budget proposal is expected to be ready by Tuesday.
Czech swimmer Martin Kovar has won a gold medal at the Paralympics in Greece. Kovar won the 100 metre free style on Sunday in 1:43,51 - setting a new world record. Meanwhile, twenty nine year old cyclist Jiri Jezek won the silver medal in the cycling race, narrowly beaten by Spaniard Robert Alcaideo.
The first fifty members of a Czech reconnaissance unit who took part in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan have returned home. The rest of the 100 member unit are expected back in the course of the next three days. For six months the unit helped to search for members of Al Qaida in the Taliban mountains at an altitude of 4,000 metres above sea level. They allegedly received high praise from the allied command, but Parliament decided against extending the mission. In a related development, it was confirmed earlier this week that Czech troops may work with a German military team to help prepare infrastructure and security in Northern Afghanistan for October's presidential election. The Czech Republic is prepared to make 40 soldiers available in the near future.
Health Minister Milada Emmerova is receiving letters of complaint from the public after she urged citizens to write and let her know what problems they faced in the health sector. Following her invitation to the public last week, the minister allegedly received 120 complaints in a matter of days. They include criticism of health care ethics, health insurance companies and health care facilities. The minister said she was dealing with each and every case and would not leave any letter unanswered.
Monday is expected to be partly cloudy with scattered showers and day temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.
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