The Chinese embassy has issued a statement strongly criticising the decision to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Prague. The Dalai Lama arrived in Prague on Saturday afternoon to preside over a three-day international conference on Tibet which gets underway on Sunday. It is the first time that the gathering - sponsored by a German foundation - has been held in Prague. The embassy accused the conference - which is being held under the auspices of the Czech Senate - of supporting activities which damage Chinese national identity and hurt Czech-Chinese relations. Senator Jan Ruml, himself a former anti-Communist dissident, said the meeting was part of the democratic process and the criticism was unfounded.
The senior coalition Social Democrats have criticised a speech made by President Vaclav Klaus in which he attacked government policy. The party said President Klaus - honorary chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats - had apparently forgotten that the president was supposed to be impartial. In Thursday's speech to MPs in the lower house Mr Klaus criticised the record budget deficit proposed for 2004, and also raised objections to the government's package of finance reforms, which must be signed by the president before they become law. He has denied claims that his words were an attack on the ruling coalition, saying he had merely identified several serious problems facing the country.
Hundreds of people waited for hours outside a bookshop in Brno on Saturday to attend a book signing by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ms Albright, born Marie Korbelova in Prague, is in the Czech Republic to launch the Czech translation of new book of memoirs, "Madam Secretary." Ms Albright, who speaks fluent Czech, will meet a number of senior officials during her visit including former president Vaclav Havel, who is a close personal friend. Her visit ends on Tuesday.
Another suspected case of BSE or mad cow disease has been reported in a herd near Prachatice, South Bohemia. If confirmed, it would be the Czech Republic's sixth case of the disease since 2001. The State Veterinary Authority said further tests were being carried out and the final result would be known by Wednesday, although the Authority said it was almost 100 percent certain that the animal was infected. Almost half a million cattle have been tested for BSE since the first case was confirmed two years ago.
Two Czechs were among 13 people sentenced to prison in the Antilles on Thursday for drugs smuggling. The two Czech citizens were sentenced to 30 months in prison by a court on the island of Sint Maarten, after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 10 kilos of cocaine out of the country. The two had visited the Antilles - which are part of the Netherlands - as tourists. The remaining 11 people sentenced were Slovaks.
Czech customs officers have seized packages of cocaine and marihuana on a bus heading for Prague from Rotterdam. The seizure was made at the Rozvadov crossing on the Czech-German border. Customs officers found 36 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of 30,000 crowns (around 1,000 US dollars) and small amounts of marihuana. Police were unable to identify the owners of the packages and no arrests were made.
Two people died on Saturday when their light aircraft crashed near the town of Kladno, to the west of Prague. The aircraft, a Czech-made Zlin Z-142, crashed shortly after takeoff on Saturday afternoon. According to police the two were a 48-year-old father and his eighteen-year-old son, whom he was training. It is not clear who was piloting the plane when it crashed.
Sunday will be a mostly bright and sunny day, with daytime temperatures ranging from 7 to 11 degrees Celsius. Temperatures at night will fall to lows of -3 degrees.
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