Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek - the leader of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - has announced that his party is no longer favouring early elections as a way out of the continuing political stalemate that followed inconclusive elections in June. Mr Topolanek made the announcement at a joint press conference with the Social Democrats' Jiri Paroubek on Monday. The Civic Democrats leaders' decision is a marked change in course: until now Mr Topolanek has pushed strongly for early elections in 2007 as the only viable way out of the deadlock. In his statement on Monday Mr Topolanek said he would be seeking a stable solution, a government that could rule until after the Czech Republic holds the rotating EU presidency in 2009.
As for the make-up of the new government, Mr Topolanek has proposed a rainbow coalition excluding only the communists.
The leader of the Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek has admitted that early elections in 2007 - originally a requirement pushed by the Civic Democrats - would be "a catastrophe". Mr Paroubek made the statement for the Czech daily Pravo and the CTK news agency on Monday after talks between the two parties. Later, Mr Paroubek backtracked from his original statement somewhat, saying that if elections were held next year his party would not achieve an "optimal result". A public opinion survey released last week has suggested if a national election were held at this time the Social Democrats would clinch just 60 seats in the lower house compared to the Civic Democrats' 96.
In related news, the Green Party is not likely to back anything other than an interim government with a mandate at latest until 2008. The head of the Greens Martin Bursik, meeting with Prime Minister Topolanek also on Monday, said that his party would continue to back early elections as a first priority. The Greens would also like the government to be made up primarily of experts.
Outgoing Health Minister Tomas Julinek has warned that hospital debts and debts of other medical facilities could grow in 2007 as a result of the new labour code, set to come into effect in January. According to the minister, the new code will entail spending not considered in the Health Ministry's budget, a difference of 2 billion crowns. Previously, the outgoing Civic Democrat recommended postponing the validity of the new labour code, sparking protest from trade unions expected to hold a rally in support of the legislation later this month.
On Monday, outgoing Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Necas the code was likely to come into effect on January 1st; given the balance of mandates in the lower house it is unlikely that the Civic Democrats will be able to postpone its coming into effect.
A military counter-intelligence spokesman has revealed that the elite Czech reconnaissance unit completing its six-month mission has returned from Afghanistan. The unit took part in the anti-terrorism mission "Enduring Freedom" for the second time in the last two years, helping to search for al Qaeda and Taleban fighters in that country's mountainous regions.
The unit's commander Ondrej Palenik has been quoted as saying he considered it crucial that the more than one hundred members of the contingent had now returned home having fulfilled their duties.
At present, 82 Czech troops are deployed in a reconstruction team within NATO's ISAF mission and 18 troops operate at Kabul airport as part of ISAF. Next year, up to 90 new Czech soldiers are to leave for Kabul to take charge of the airport's operation for four months.
Croatian President Stjepan Mesic - meeting with President Vaclav Klaus on Monday in Prague - has invited Czech investors to consider investment in Croatia, not least in the tourism business. Mr Mesic stressed that Croatia wanted to open its doors to Czech investment, saying the tourism market was not saturated.
Croatia has long been a favoured destination of Czech tourists: in 2006 alone more than 800,000 of them vacationed on the Croatian coast.
Indonesian rescue workers are looking for a 26 year-old Czech male missing in the waters near Bali since last Wednesday. Strong tides separated two men from their diving companions, and rescue workers found one 36 year-old Czech diver on Sunday, several tens of kilometers away from the spot where the men went missing. The Czech Ambassador in Indonesia has confirmed that the rescued man is recovering in hospital without serious injuries, and an intense search continues for the second Czech tourist.
According to the Czech news agency, CTK, citing the Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport star midfielder Pavel Nedved, who plays for Italy's Juventus Turin, has been offered a post-career contract with the team's management when he eventually hangs up his football boots. Nedved's current contract expires in 2008. The player stayed on at Juventus even after the team was relegated to the 2nd division. In recent weeks he has been in excellent form, on Saturday scoring both his team's goals in a 2:0 win over Pescara.
The coming days are likely to see more drizzling weather with daytime highs ranging between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius.
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