The first 16 paratroopers of a 120 strong Czech contingent have arrived in Skopje, Macedonia on a NATO mission to assist a fragile peace deal in the former Yugoslav Republic. The remaining 104 men are to be deployed over the weekend. The lightly armed unit will join British troops to prepare the ground for the full 3,500 complement which the alliance plans to send to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels. According to the head of the unit Oldrich Napravnik their first task will be to search the terrain and find a suitable place for the command of the operation.
President Vaclav Havel has sent the Czech unit a telegram, wishing them well and saying that he is proud that Czech troops are taking an active part in helping to restore peace in the Balkans.
According to Christopher Donnelly, a top NATO advisor for Central and East European affairs, the Czech unit's role in this NATO mission reflects the respect that Czech soldiers have won within the alliance.
President Havel has pardoned a woman who was arrested on Czech territory for using a false passport. She was fleeing from the armed conflict in Macedonia together with her husband and two small children. Her husband remains in custody. The President's spokesman said the decision had been made on humanitarian grounds. The Czech Helsinki Committee supported the woman's plea for pardon, saying that her children, who had been placed in an orphanage, were acutely unhappy in a foreign environment. One of the children was allegedly refusing food.
The Temelin nuclear power plant, recently re-started after three months of repair work, is said to be operating "according to expectations and without problems". Vaclav Brom, spokesman for the operator CEZ, told newsmen that as of Friday morning the plant's first unit was operating at nearly 55% capacity generating about 470 megawatts - and could supply electricity to the nation's power grid. Brom said that technicians for Temelin's contractor Skoda Energo had successfully adjusted the turbine's balance and that current tests were being handled with care. The plant's restart on Monday triggered fresh protests from neighbouring Austria and Germany.
An Ostrava court has sentenced two men to twelve years in jail for a series of bank robberies. The two men, who were brothers in law, managed to get away with 6 hold ups of small bank outlets and post offices, stashing away over two million crowns, before the police tracked them down in Ostrava. Both claim they are innocent and have appealed against the verdict.
A twelve year old boy has been seriously injured by a mastiff. The boy was playing by the river Ostravice near his parents' summer cottage when the eleven month old mastiff attacked him from behind. The boy sustained serious head injuries and was rushed to hospital for surgery. He is said to have received 200 stitches and remains in intensive care. Police are investigating the case but no one has yet been charged.
The weekend should bring partly cloudy skies, rain in places and a slight drop in day temps to between 23 and 27 degs. More rain is expected to fall in the north-western part of the country, temperatures in the eastern part, Moravia, are expected to reach 30 degs. C
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