The Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cyril Svoboda, has warned that the Czech government's decision to acquire Swedish Gripen fighters jets could have a negative effect on Czech-American relations. The CTK news agency quoted unnamed diplomatic sources that this Czech participation in the renewal of Iraq could suffer as a result. On Wednesday, the Czech government decided in favour of the Gripens over U.S.-made F-16s. A few days before, the U.S. ambassador to Prague, Craig Stapleton, had hinted that Czech-American relations could feel an impact if the cabinet selected the Gripens. The government wants to lease 14 new Jas-39 Gripens for over 17 billion crowns for ten years. The modern fighters should replace the ageing Soviet-made MiG-21s by 2005.
Czech National Bank Vice-Governor Ludek Niedermayer said interest rates were at the right level, supporting economic growth. Markets see Mr. Niedermeyer as one of the most hawkish members of the Czech central bank's policy-making board. The key two-week repo rate stands at an all-time low of 2.0 percent. Mr. Niedermayer said the risks stemming from keeping rates low involved the ability of households to manage their borrowing which has exploded 30 percent or more over last year's levels. Analysts expect no further rate cuts from the bank next year. They believe interest rates will increase but not before the end of March.
President Vaclav Klaus met Prague Archbishop, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, for the first time since he was elected Czech president in February. The heads of state and Church discussed the general situation of churches in the Czech Republic as well as a Czech-Vatican agreement which is supposed to define the position of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church in the Czech Republic but was rejected by the Lower House earlier this year. According to media reports, the relationship between Klaus and Vlk had been somewhat cool but the latest meeting, which lasted much longer than planned, suggests a warming in relations. The two leaders are to meet again in a few months' time.
Czech footballer Pavel Nedved, mid-fielder for Juventus Turin and captain of the Czech national team, has been voted the best Czech sportsman of the year. Nedved becomes the first football player to be awarded the Czech title. He replaces freestyle aerials skier Ales Valenta on the throne. Cross-country world champion Martin Koukal came in second, while ice hockey player Milan Hejduk was third. In the category of teams, the award was given to the national football team under coach Karel Brueckner. The Best Sportsman of the Year title has been awarded every year since 1959.
In skiing Czech Katerina Neumannova won the women's 10km freestyle race at the World Cup in Ramsau, Austria, on Saturday. 30-year-old Neumannova returned to cross-country skiing after a six-month break following the birth of her daughter. Neumannova finished first with a time of 27 minutes and 9.0 seconds, 24 seconds ahead of second Kristina Smigun of Estonia.
We are expecting a cloudy day with occasional snow showers. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 1 degree Celsius below zero to 3 above.
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