The Czech cabinet, in the midst of deciding amongst five proposals to replace the country's aging fleet of MiG-21 fighter jets, has indicated more time may be needed to reach a final decision. Earlier, it was expected the government would reach a decision on the purchase this Wednesday. However, some government officials have revealed an extraordinary government session may be needed to decide on the purchase later, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla saying the matter was "too serious to decide in haste". In the government tender the Czech Republic received five offers on new fighter jets from countries including Sweden, Belgium, the U.S., and the Netherlands, with a commission of experts recommending in November that the Czech Air Force opt for Sweden's offer for 14 Gripen fighter jets, manufactured by Saab/BAE Systems. Since then, Belgium, the U.S., and the Netherlands have all expressed the desire to put forward what they called new and final bids, a possibility the Defence Ministry has rejected thus far.
The senate has approved the continuing operation of Czech military missions in both Iraq and the Balkans. 500 Czech soldiers will continue to serve in the Balkans next year as well as 150 military police in Iraq. Both missions were supported by 49 out of 58 senators present on Wednesday, while three senators from the Communist Party and one member of the government senior Social Democratic Party voted against. The chamber of deputies will now vote on the issue on Thursday. In Iraq, Czech military police will mainly be in charge of training local police officers, while in the Balkans, Czech soldiers will continue operating within the Czech-Slovak KFOR battalion in north-east Kosovo. Their mission includes monitoring the 104 km long border between Kosovo and Serbia.
The senate has passed a bill that should make public tenders more transparent in the Czech Republic. 42 out of 64 senators voted in favour with just 10 voting against; the bill will now move to the chamber of deputies. The bill on public tenders brings Czech legislation on tenders in line with EU regulations; its passing will open the door to over 70 billion crowns in European funds from Brussels over the next two years.
The Spolana chemical plant near Prague suffered a chemical leak on Wednesday during which a corrosive solution known as oleum escaped during routine cleaning measures, letting sulphuric oxide into the air. The plant treated the accident as a first degree chemical emergency; in the end no one was hurt and the leak did not reach beyond factory walls. Fire-fighters were called in at around noon to help in the clean-up.
Petr Mach, the former president of Prague's first division football club Sparta Prague, has been granted an early release from prison. Mr Mach began serving a five year sentence for tax fraud in June 2001, after Mr Mach had failed to declare a luxury BMW automobile bought in Germany. His failure to declare the vehicle divested the state of more than 1.3 million crowns. Mr Mach's release decided by a Prague court must now be confirmed by a state attorney.
A new poll released by the CVVM agency has revealed that the senior opposition Civic Democratic Party has increased its voter preference to 31 percent, compared to the senior government leaders, the Social Democrats, who remained at 14 percent since October. The communist party, meanwhile, came in second at 16 percent in voter preference, while the Christian Democrats lost 2 percentage points since October, down at 7 percent. Finally, preference for the junior-coalition party the Freedom Union has fallen to just 2 percentage points, three below the five percent threshold parties must achieve in order to make it into Parliament. The CVVM agency said if elections were held tomorrow some 65 percent of those polled in the latest survey would go to the voting booths.
A 23-year-old Czech tourist has been reported missing in New South Wales, Australia, where she was travelling with a relative and another couple in Kosciuszko National Park. The tourist broke away from the main group but never returned to her vehicle as planned. The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed the young woman's disappearance, but has not disclosed any additional information at her family's request. Meanwhile recent years have seen a number of Czechs go missing abroad, among them a 28-year-old woman who disappeared on a mountain expedition in Ecuador in 2001. Another case in 2001 saw three Czech students disappear in Albania after crossing the border from Montenegro. None of those cases has been resolved.
Thursday is expected to see sunshine but a maximum temperature of just 2 degrees Celsius.
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