The controversial Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia could be restarted on Friday, one month after the plant was shut down due to technical problems during the testing phase. Temelin's operators, the state-owned energy company CEZ, say they expect to receive permission to relaunch Temelin's first reactor later today. The plant was shut down in mid-January after vibrations were discovered in one of the cooling system's turbines. Austrian environmentalists say the technical problems at the plant are proof that it is unsafe, and must be shut down. Temelin's operators say the problems are normal in any testing period.
A court in the North Moravian town of Krnov has found three youths not guilty of carrying out a petrol bomb attack on a local Roma family, in which a mother of four was nearly burnt alive and her partner seriously injured. The judge presiding over the case concluded that the attack was racially motivated, but said there was insufficient evidence to convict the youths, named as Radek Bedri, Jan Bucko and Jaroslav Bahnicek. It was the second time the three had been tried for the attack, after a court of appeal ordered a retrial following an identical verdict two years ago. The state attorney has again appealed against the decision. The Czech Republic has been criticised by several international organisations for failing to protect its large Roma minority, which is frequently targeted for attack by neo-Nazi skinheads.
The Czech Republic has been hit by heavy snowfalls, leading to the closure of the country's main motorway and Prague's Ruzyne Airport. Police closed the country's D1 motorway between Prague and Brno on Thursday night, and are still struggling to clear the road. Prague's Ruzyne Airport was still closed on Friday morning due to snow on the runway. Many towns and villages in mountain regions have been completely cut off. More snow is forecast for the weekend.
The NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, has ended a two-day visit to Prague, where he urged the Czech Republic and other new NATO members to quicken the pace of reforming their armed forces. Lord Robertson said much progress had been made in the two years since the Czech Republic joined NATO, but said the Czech military should become smaller, more efficient and more mobile. During his visit he praised Czech contributions to peacekeeping missions in the Balkans, but advised caution on plans to replace its ageing fleet of MiG-21 fighter aircraft, saying that the purchase would be extremely expensive and should not be at the expense of other branches of the armed forces. Prime Minister Milos Zeman has defended the plan, which could cost Prague more than two and a half billion U.S. dollars over several years. The Czech Republic currently spends 2.2 percent of its GDP on defence, meeting NATO criteria. Poland and Hungary fall slightly short of the target.
Lord Robertson appeared at a press conference on Wednesday with President Vaclav Havel, the Czech president's first public appearance since being admitted to hospital ten days ago suffering from acute bronchitis. The president's doctors said on Thursday that he could be released from hospital as early as this weekend. Doctors had planned to discharge Mr Havel last Monday, but a sudden relapse forced them to extend his treatment. President Havel, who is 64, has suffered frequent breathing problems since 1996, when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour from his right lung. Half of his lung was removed in the operation.
A court in Prague has ordered the freezing of assets belonging to Vladimir Zelezny, head of the Czech Republic's hugely successful private television station, TV Nova. Mr Zelezny is currently involved in a bitter struggle with the American firm CME, which helped Mr Zelezny establish the station in the early 1990s. An International Court of Arbitration recently ordered him to pay CME 27 million U.S. dollars in compensation for breaking the terms of a business deal. CME had asked the Czech authorities to freeze Mr Zelezny's assets to ensure compensation would be paid. Earlier this week a French court, acting under international arbitration rules, seized a villa belonging to Mr Zelezny in Brittany.
The Czech Republic has launched its first nation-wide census since becoming an independent country in 1993. Thousands of census officials, most of them students and pensioners, began distributing forms to households throughout the country on Thursday, and will start gathering them on the first of March. The census has not been without controversy, as critics claim that some of its questions intrude on people's basic right to privacy. Anyone who fails to fill out the forms will face a fine of around 250 U.S. dollars.
The Labour and Social Affairs Minister, Vladimir Spidla, has withdrawn a government proposal to transform the state-controlled social insurance body - which pays pensions and other benefits - into an independent social insurance company with parliamentary supervision. The move was supposed to be one of the first steps in much-needed reform of the social system. Mr Spidla withdrew the bill after fierce opposition from right-wing parties, who said the changes were merely cosmetic.
And finally, a quick look at the weather. Friday night will be cold and overcast, with temperatures dropping to minus seven degrees Celsius and snow in most parts of the country. Saturday and Sunday will see more heavy snow falls - temperatures will reach a maximum of one degrees in the daytime.
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