President Havel was hospitalised with heart problems early on Monday. Shortly after boarding a plane for an official visit to Italy, the president was taken ill with irregular heart rhythm and was rushed to the Prague army hospital for treatment. The president's personal doctor, Ilya Kotik, said this was not the first time that the president had suffered from the problem - called heart arrhythmia - and that he was prone to the condition at times of heightened stress or after illness. Doctors are monitoring the president's condition and say it is not clear how long he may have to remain in hospital. A former chain smoker who spent years in Communist prisons, the Czech president underwent major cancer surgery in 1996 and has been plagued by frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia ever since. He was last hospitalised in February 2001, after cutting short a trip to Kuwait. The president has been in office since 1989 and plans to retire in early 2003.
Fears that terrorists may target European chemical factories has re-opened a debate over an ageing stock of deadly pesticides at a facility near Prague. Three buildings at the Spolana Chemicals plant, located some 25 km north of Prague, allegedly contain barrels of the carcinogenic defoliant Ascorbic E, an ingredient used in making Agent Orange, the highly toxic jungle-clearing chemical used by the US army in Vietnam. Officials at the plant said that so far they had found no safe means of disposing of the substance and transporting it to another location is considered highly hazardous. According to Spolana officials one of the buildings in question was covered with a concrete shell last year and a study on how to handle the remaining contamination is to be completed in February 2002. A spokesman for the Czech branch of Friends of the Earth, Jindrich Petrlik, warned that Spolana could be targeted by terrorists in which case there was a serious danger of contamination of the Labe or Elbe River, which flows north through the German cities of Dresden and Hamburg.
The Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross says the Czech Republic is bracing itself for a wave of refugees from the East, following planned military action by the United States in retaliation for the recent terrorist attacks. Mr Gross said he had no idea how many refugees might seek asylum in the country, but added it was better to be prepared for a possible influx. The interior ministry is increasing the capacity of its ten asylum camps and an amended version of the asylum law is to get a priority hearing in the upper house of Parliament.
A policeman who accidentally shot and killed a woman while pursuing a stolen vehicle may face charges of causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death. A police investigator has asked the regional state attorney to file charges, handing over a file of what he described as "adequate evidence" against the officer in question. If he goes to court the officer will face up to five years in prison. The 46-year-old mother-of-two was hit by a stray bullet as the officer fired several warning shots and then allegedly aimed at the receding car's tyres. The incident has sparked heated debates as to whether or not policemen should be banned from shooting at suspected criminals in public places.
Deputy prime minister Vladimir Spidla is to meet union representatives of Czech Railways on Tuesday to discuss the company's growing financial problems. The meeting was set up last week after trade unions threatened to paralyse the country with a national strike if the government failed to address the problem of dwindling funds. The cabinet failed to deliver a promised 15 billion crown injection to the state owned company earlier this year, resulting in low maintenance, late payments to contractors and problems with paying employees' wages on time. The government aid package was to have come from its privatisation fund, and has been delayed indefinitely due to delays in the privatisation of a number of key enterprises.
The British government has announced plans to expand a year-old assistance programme aimed at preparing the Czech Republic for EU entry by 2004. The programme, which has already cost Britain more than 1 million pounds, provides technical and financial aid for projects ranging from minority-rights initiatives to establishing a crime-fighting DNA data-base for the Czech police. Programmes for tax reform, fighting xenophobia, improving the global competitiveness of Czech manufacturers and cleaning up polluted waters are also receiving assistance. The Czech Republic has so far met requirements for 19 of the 31 chapters needed for EU entry and according to Britain's minister for Europe "there is still much to be done".
The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is due to visit Denmark on October 4th. His talks with Danish top officials are expected to cover EU enlargement, Co-operation within NATO and the international security situation following the terrorist attack on the United States.
And finally a look at the weather forecast: Wednesday will be another cloudy day, with rain forecast for most parts of the country. Temperatures in the daytime will peak at 12 degrees Celsius, falling at night to 6 degrees.
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