Two further military planes carrying over a hundred Czech troops have arrived in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, as part of a NATO mission to assist a fragile peace deal. They will join British and French troops to form a four-hundred-strong unit that will prepare the ground for a larger NATO contingent that hopes to collect weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels. The Alliance has delayed a decision on sending in the full force of three-and-a-half thousand troops, because of concern that the fragile truce in the country could collapse. Sixteen Czech troops formed part of a small NATO vanguard, which arrived in Macedonia on Friday with the aim of setting up a command headquarters for the mission.
And staying on a military note, the Czech, Polish and Slovak Defence Ministries have agreed that a joint brigade made up of troops from the three countries will be up and running by June next year, in time for the NATO summit in Prague in November. The Czech Deputy Defence Minister, Stefan Fule, said that concrete details had not yet been decided, in part because Slovakia, where the brigade is to be based, is not yet a NATO member. He added that the brigade would be a signal to NATO that Poland and the Czech Republic strongly support Slovakia's aspirations to join the Alliance.
The search continues for two Czech children, aged ten and twelve, who disappeared while on a driving holiday in the south of the country. DNA tests have now confirmed that a man found dead near the city of Brno ten days ago was the children's Belgian uncle, with whom they had been travelling. The search operation is now continuing in the area around Kromeriz in Southern Moravia, one of the last places where they were seen.
In its latest report the Bureau for the Investigation of Communist Crimes has confirmed that nearly three hundred people were deported from Czech territory to prisons in the Soviet Union after the Second World War. Most of the deportees were Russian émigrés who had settled in Czechoslovakia between the wars. Although they near all had Czechoslovak passports, Soviet military intelligence began rounding them up in 1945, perceiving them as political enemies of the Soviet Union. The deportations continued until 1954, later with the active help of the Czechoslovak secret police. Most of those who were deported eventually managed to return home in the mid 1950s, although the report states that one person remained in a Soviet prison until 1964.
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 a pardon, saying that her children, who had been placed in an orphanage, were acutely unhappy in a foreign environment. One of the children was reported to be refusing to eat.
The Japanese-owned international financial group Nomura has demanded an apology from Czech Television for a report on Friday's news bulletin. The report claimed that Nomura, which until last year owned the majority share in the Czech bank IPB, had deliberately brought about the bank's collapse last year, as part of an agreement with IPB's management. According to the television report, Nomura had only been interested in IPB as a means of gaining control over the Czech brewing giant Ceske pivovary.
And finally a glance at the weather. We can expect the hot but unsettled weather to continue. Sunday will be mainly overcast with showers and thunderstorms, and temperatures up to 27 degrees Celsius. There will be further showers on Monday, and in the south-east of the country temperatures could rise as high as 30 degrees. It should be a little cooler on Tuesday, with isolated showers.
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