Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, who is on a three-day official visit to Egypt, on Monday met with president Husni Mubarak. The talks focussed mainly on the situation in the Middle East following the resignation of the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas and the current state of Czech-Egyptian relations. In the course of the next two days, Mr. Spidla is scheduled to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Atef Ebeid and Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is reported to have shown interest in acquiring Czech L-159 fighter jets. The Czech Prime Minister is accompanied by Trade and Industry Minister Milan Urban, Education Minister Petra Buzkova, and a delegation of Czech entrepreneurs. On Wednesday evening, Mr Spidla is scheduled to leave for Tunisia, where he plans to stay until Friday.
Heart specialists at a Prague hospital have begun examining nine Iraqi children whose heart problems were diagnosed in recent weeks by Czech army
doctors in Basra, southern Iraq. The children arrived in the Czech capital by military plane on Sunday as part of the Czech Republic's contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq. They are among the over 5,000 Basra-area civilians who have been treated by doctors and nurses from the Czech field hospital stationed in Basra since May. According to Motol hospital cardiologist Dr. Vaclav Chaloupecky, the five girls and four boys were born with serious heart defects and had little chance of receiving adequate medical care in their home country. Each child will need to spend over a month in hospital. They were selected for special care from a group of about 30 children diagnosed by army doctors. Theirs is the second group of Basra children flown to Prague for medical care since the army field hospital opened a paediatric unit in July.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic increased to 10 percent at the end of August, according to the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Over 524,000 people are out of work. Traditionally, the highest unemployment rate was reported in the districts of Most, North Bohemia 22.9 percent and Karvina, North Moravia, 20.4 percent. Unemployment in the Czech capital Prague has reached 4 percent. Analysts say the main reasons for the unemployment growth are high wages as a result of trade union pressure, which result in companies laying off employees and high corporate taxes which restrict the investment of profits into expansion and new job opportunities.
The Czech Statistical Bureau (CSU) said on Monday that year-on-year gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second quarter slowed down to 2.1 percent from a revised 2.4 percent in the first quarter. It is the weakest year-on- year performance among the four largest central European countries which will join the European Union next May. In its report, the CSU also said consumer prices dropped by 0.2 percent month-on-month in August thanks to cheaper food, clothing and household equipment. The Czech Republic has slashed interest rates to all-time lows of two percent to help boost the economy in a low inflation environment. The Central Bank expects gradual revival of inflation in the coming months and most analysts have forecast no more rate cuts.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon a Czech man who was sentenced to 19 months in prison after being caught with less than a gram of hashish in his backpack. Pavel Pavlicek, 26, was arrested at Moscow airport in April after a sniffer dog found the drug. He claims the hashish was a gift from someone he had drank tea with while in India and that he had put it in his backpack and forgotten all about it. The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has joined the plea for pardon explaining his reasons in a personal letter to the Russian president.
British Royal Air Force Harrier and Hawk fighter jets and Lynx helicopters landed at the Namest nad Oslavou airbase on Monday, at the start of a ten day joint military exercise code named Flying Rhino. British commander Ian Cameron told the CTK press agency that British and Czech pilots would search for ground targets and simulate attacks from the air in an exercise intended mainly to improve cooperation. There will be no flights over the weekend, when the troops will hold an open house for citizens at the airbase.
Tuesday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain in places and day temperatures between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.
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