Tests in Germany have confirmed a suspected case of BSE in the Czech Republic, and scientists are now trying to ascertain how the disease spread from Western Europe. The German tests followed two positive tests in a Czech laboratory on a six-year-old cow from a herd in the village of Dusejov, 75 miles southeast of Prague. Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl said 139 animals in the herd would be slaughtered and tested for mad cow disease. Officials have already ordered testing of all slaughtered animals older than 30 months, and the ministry will seek 155 million crowns from parliament to pay for testing. Mr Fencl reiterated that Czech beef was safe, and to prove the point the ministry served roast beef to journalists at the press conference.
Meanwhile Russia has banned imports of live cattle, beef on the bone and beef products from the Czech Republic following the confirmation. Under the order, from June 20 only boneless pure beef may be imported from the Czech Republic, under the strict control of the Russian authorities. Russia joins Slovakia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to ban imports of most Czech beef products.
The state prosecutor's office in Prague has stopped criminal proceedings against a former advisor to Prime Minister Milos Zeman who was accused of orchestrating a smear campaign against one of the prime minister's popular rivals. The prosecutor's office said while Vratislav Sima had produced documents to discredit Petra Buzkova, an M.P. in Mr Zeman's ruling Social Democrats, he said the operation was not a criminal offence. Last year a Czech newspaper published documents which it said were part of a smear campaign designed to discredit Ms Buzkova, deputy chairwoman of the lower house, with allegations that she was an alcoholic and abused her daughter.
And Prime Minister Milos Zeman completes his three-day visit to St Petersburg on Friday, with a speech at the 5th St Petersburg Economic Forum on globalisation and regional integration. The forum is devoted to the economic problems of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Mr Zeman met local officials for talks on economic and trade relations.
The Czech President Vaclav Havel has offered his support for American plans for a missile defence system. President Havel was speaking to reporters before meeting President George W. Bush at the NATO summit in Brussels. President Bush is pushing for a U.S. missile defence system, something that has worried some European countries. Mr Havel said the world was entering an era when different defensive systems made sense. The Czech president also supported the idea of a European defence force. The Czech Republic joined NATO along with Poland and Hungary in 1999.
Austria's Finance Minister, Karl-Heinz Grasser, has said that unless the Benes Decrees are annulled, the Czech Republic will not be able to join the European Union. The Benes Decrees were issued after the Second World War, sanctioning the expulsion of up to three million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia in retaliation for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. The issue has been a source of tension between the Czech Republic and Austria, where many of the expellees - known as Sudeten Germans - settled after the war. The Austrian Finance Minister, a member of the ruling far-right Freedom Party, described the Benes Decrees as a gaping wound in relations between the two countries. Mr Grasser did not say how Austria would block Czech EU accession.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Friday night will be mild with temperatures dropping to 10 degrees Celsius. Saturday will remain unsettled - cloudy with some sunny patches and showers in places, and daytime temperatures reaching a maximum of 23 degrees Celsius.
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