The U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has advised the Czech Republic not to jeopardise the future of its armed forces by buying dozens of new fighter jets which it might not be able to afford. Mr Rumsfeld said the country should concentrate instead on modernising its ground forces, to make the Czech Army fully compatible with NATO. His comments came after a meeting with the new Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Trvdik, and are seen as a further blow to the jet fighter tender, which has sharply divided Czech politicians. The country is planning to spend some 70 billion crowns on up to three dozen fighters, but four of the five consortiums bidding for the tender pulled out days before the deadline, leaving just the British-Swedish venture Saab-BAE systems.
The authorities in Prague have sought to reassure the public that Czech beef is safe, amid fears that the Czech Republic could become the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to record a case of mad cow disease. The Agriculture Ministry announced on Wednesday that an initial test on a six-year-old cow showed the animal may have developed BSE. The results of a second test will be released on Friday. BSE has been discovered in herds in Britain, France and other west European countries but until now eastern Europe was believed to be free of the disease. The Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl immediately sought to reassure the public, saying meat from Czech cattle was safe to eat.
Four Northern Ireland football players and their goalkeeping coach were expected to fly home on Friday, after being detained in Prague over an incident in a local night club. The men were arrested and held in custody following an incident in a strip club just off Prague's Wenceslas Square. The club's bouncer was slightly injured during an argument over the bill. However there is still some confusion as to whether or not the men have been charged. Local media reports quoted a police spokesman as saying four of the men had been charged with hooliganism and could face up to a year in prison. The general secretary of the Irish Football Association has said all the charges have been dropped.
The central Bohemian town of Kolin is still in the running for a massive investment project, as the German car-maker BMW narrowed its list of possible sites for its new assembly plant to five candidates. BMW must now choose between, Kolin, Arras in France and the German cities of Leipzig, Schwerin and Augsburg. The plant will employ 10,000 people including local suppliers, and will turn out some 600 BMW 3 series cars each day.
A court in the eastern city of Ostrava has sentenced a 47-year-old man to 18 and a half years in prison for murdering a pensioner. The man was found guilty of killing the 77-year-old woman in her flat in the city of Karvina. The man tied up the woman and suffocated her with a plastic bag, fleeing with 200,000 Czech crowns. The man has 14 previous convictions for theft.
And finally a brief glance at the weather. And there's more unsettled weather to come, as a cold front continues to make its way from the north west. Friday will remain overcast, with scattered showers and storms in places, and daytime temperatures peaking at 22 degrees Celsius. Saturday and Sunday will see more rain and cooler weather. And according to a Czech saying, if it rains today - St. Medard's Day - it will keep raining for the next 40 days...
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