President Vaclav Havel officially appointed Jiri Rusnok as the Czech Republic's new Finance Minister on Friday, three days after the sudden resignation of Pavel Mertlik. Mr Rusnok, formerly deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister, has reassured foreign investors that key privatisation would continue and that he would keep a tight rein over public finances. President Havel has expressed his regret that Mr Mertlik was leaving the cabinet, but said he understood the reasons for his departure. Pavel Mertlik quit the post on Tuesday saying he was frustrated by his failure to convince the cabinet to adopt his privatisation and budget proposals, a reference to frequent clashes with the Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr.
The head of the Belarus office of the Czech Republic's 'People in Need' foundation has been deported from the Belarussian authorities. Michal Plavec, who is a Czech citizen and the only foreigner working in the Minsk office, was taken for questioning by Belarussian security officers on Friday morning. He is accused of breaking Belarussian law by not residing at the address he had stated in his documents. The People in Need Foundation's office in Minsk was opened last year in April. It supports NGO's, independent journalists, and the upholding of human rights and is said to be the only foreign organisation which is in direct support of the opposition democratic party.
A seventy-three year old woman charged with illegally possessing firearms received a pardon from Czech President Vaclav Havel on Friday. Anna Hucinova is the mother of Vladimir Hucin - a former dissident who is currently on remand pending trial for a number of criminal offences, including illegally possessing firearms and being an accomplice to several bomb attacks. Mrs. Hucinova, who was pardoned partly because of her poor health, said she hoped her son would also be freed. Her son continues to maintain his innocence. He says that he was arrested because he has openly criticised the national security service several times for allowing former communist officials to continue to hold influential posts.
Two experts on nuclear energy have said that the Temelin nuclear power plant is safe and that minor faults during test operation are normal. The nuclear reactor is currently undergoing international inspection. The German nuclear expert Ludger Mohrbach noted that faults such as turbine vibration and oil leaks were normal and posed no safety risk. However, although there have been no doubts about the plant's safety, a British expert, Gordon Hughes, noted that the frequency with which faults appeared during test operations had brought into question the reactor's design.
The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has approved and signed twelve proposed laws, including one on witness protection programmes, which were passed by both houses of parliament at the end of March and the beginning of April. President Havel, however, also rejected two laws. One of them would have increased state contributions for political parties by 900,000 Czech crowns per parliamentary seat, through the issuing of state bonds. The other concerned the construction of a motorway ring-road around the central Bohemian town of Pilzen.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Easter Weekend will be unseasonably chilly - with overcast skies and snow in some parts of the country. Friday night will see temperatures falling to as low as -4 degrees Celsius, while temperatures on Saturday won't rise above 5 degrees Celsius.
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