Armoured personnel carriers and elite troops have been deployed outside the headquarters of the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe in the centre of Prague. The Czech defence and interior ministers ordered the heavy security to protect the building from terrorists, following a request from Radio Free Europe as the United States prepares for possible military action against Afghanistan. The station does not broadcast to Afghanistan itself, but its programmes can be heard in most neighbouring countries. Critics accuse the station of broadcasting U.S. propaganda, but Radio Free Europe says its news coverage is objective and points out that ties to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were severed in 1971. Radio Free Europe's former headquarters in Munich was bombed in the 1980s.
And on a related note, the Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has said that a Czech citizen may in the past have helped extremist groups in Afghanistan. He said that the Czech intelligence service had monitored the man's associations with such groups, and added that he was currently not in the Czech Republic. Mr Gross stressed that there was no evidence that the man had any direct links with extremist training camps in Afghanistan. The minister's comments came in response to reports received by the United Nations Security Council from Russian intelligence sources, claiming that several Czech citizens were working at camps run by the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.
Reports in Austria's Kurier newspaper say the country's conservative-far right ruling coalition is facing severe problems due to a dispute over the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant. Austria has serious reservations about safety at the plant, but the cabinet appears split over whether the country is willing to block the closure of the energy chapter of Prague's membership negotiations with the European Union. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's senior coalition People's Party have said they will not block Prague's entry to the EU over Temelin, but their junior coalition partners, the far-right Freedom Party (FP), have said they would not remain in the coalition if the energy chapter was approved. The energy chapter cannot be formally concluded unless all E.U. members, including Austria, agree.
The Czech President Vaclav Havel has been sent home after three days in hospital with an irregular heartbeat. The president left for his official country residence at Lany Castle on Friday, in order to resume his duties. Mr Havel, who is 64, was taken ill on Monday just before he was due to begin a state visit to Italy. This is not the first time that the president has had such problems, usually in connection with stress and bronchial infections. In 1996 he underwent successful surgery for lung cancer.
The Czech people celebrate a national holiday today, as September 28th is officially designated as the Day of Czech Statehood. On this day, Czechs commemorate their chief patron saint, St. Wenceslas, who it is said will come to save the Czech people in times of trouble. St Wenceslas was responsible for introducing Christianity to the pagan Czech lands in the 10th century, and is believed to have been murdered by his brother Boleslav in 935. September 28th was first celebrated as a national holiday in 2000.
And finally a brief look at the weather. Saturday will see a band of warm air arriving from the south, bringing with it more cloudy weather. Temperatures in the daytime will peak at 21 degrees, falling at night to lows of six degrees.
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