An Albanian businessman was shot dead late on Monday in a row that developed during a public rally in support of quick and peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis in downtown Prague. The 39-year-old man was killed by several bullets in the chest. The alleged assailant aged 37 who is believed to be a Serb, was immediately arrested. Friends of the dead man on the scene said he was an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo who had been in Prague for only two days.
The incident took place after the demonstration had been dispersed because of a bomb threat. The demonstration, organised by several Czech human rights groups, brought several hundred people to Prague's Namesti Miru or Peace Square. Participants were supporting NATO's action in Yugoslavia and called for a quick peace deal for the province.
The Monday shooting at a demonstration in Prague is connected with security threats for the Czech Republic stemming from the Kosovo crisis, Czech intelligence service BIS spokesman Jan Subrt told reporters. Subrt admitted that the incident could trigger more violent actions and he added BIS would give the matter proper attention.
The interior ministry has stated that the Czech Republic is ready to immediately accept several hundred refugees from Kosovo. However if there were too many applicants, the government would have to decide on further steps. Head of the Czech interior ministry department for refugees Tomas Haisman told the CTK news agency that there were no problems with refugees on the border with Slovakia. In case of a larger number of illegal immigrants, the Czech police are ready to strengthen border defences. Although there is still room in refugee camps on Czech territory and Czech authorities do not expect any dramatic changes, the situation in the Balkans is unpredictable, Haisman added.
The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions is disappointed by the failure of both European and world diplomacy to solve the crisis in Kosovo peacefully. The Unions do not see the use of military force as the best solution as it can guarantee neither the right to autonomy for Kosovo Albanians nor territorial integrity of this part of Europe. In a statement issued on Monday, the Czech Trade Unions sharply condemned ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, one of whose victims was Kosovo Trade Union leader Agim Hajrizi, along with his family. The Czech Trade Union leader, Richard Falbr, said that there was still room for a diplomatic solution and that bombing Yugoslavia will neither weaken president Milosevic's position nor solve the situation in Kosovo.
Many Czech MPs do not consider the ambiguous views of high Czech officials concerning NATO strikes in Yugoslavia as a threat to mutual relations between the Czech Republic and other NATO members. Nevertheless, some are convinced that highest state representatives should present a united view on such crucial issues.
While shadow foreign minister for the Civic Democratic Party, Jan Zahradil, pointed out that Western politicians are not unified on the issue either, his party colleague, head of the parliamentary defence and security committee Petr Necas, would see a danger for the Czech Republic's position in NATO only if disunity among Czech leaders became the norm. Chairman of the foreign affairs committee Lubomir Zaoralek from the Social Democratic Party thinks that our allies expect us to express our own views.
On the other hand, Christian Democrat Josef Janecek says it is natural that politicians have different views but in his opinion the highest state officials should realize that they represent the country and must present one clear standpoint.
Foreign minister Jan Kavan reiterated that the government is united in its view of NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia. Kavan told journalists that NATO secretary general Javier Solana was right when he said that both stages of the bombing were supported by all 19 members of the Alliance. Minister Kavan added that all 19 governments would be consulted about any further steps, such as bombing of other than military objects or ground operations. Kavan explained that premier Zeman and himself charged Czech ambassador to NATO, Karel Kovanda to communicate the country's agreement with the military action and that there was no need for voting in the cabinet.
Christian Democrat deputy leader and former defence minister Vilem Holan suggests that the Czech Republic should build a professional army of 40-50 thousand men. This would take around five years. Holan said it was necessary to start discussing the issue in the chamber of deputies this week along with military legislation which the lower house has on its agenda for this month.
Czech environment minister Milos Kuzvart is visiting Austria today. During his brief visit to the neighbouring country Minister Kuzvart is to discuss the future of the Temelin nuclear power station which is under construction in Southern Bohemia near the Czech-Austrian border. Last week, the Austrian parliament offered the Czech Republic experts for consultations about alternative energy sources and asked Austrian chancellor Viktor Klima to start talks about Temelin with Czech premier Milos Zeman.
The Czech Republic had a trade surplus with EU countries in the first two months of this year. According to the latest data provided by the Czech Statistical Office, Czech exports to the EU dropped just under one percent year-on-year imports from the EU decreased more than six percent.
Most Czechs -- 69 percent -- think that the most important role of churches is care for old and ill people. This is the results of the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public opinion Research. 62 percent of the poll respondents see the importance of churches in providing spiritual support, and 47 percent of them think that churches are essential for maintaining moral values in the society. However, since 1993, the importance of churches in general has decreasing in the eyes of Czech public by about ten percent.
And now, a brief look at the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered showers, afternoon highs should range from 12 to 16 degrees Celsius. Wednesday and Thursday should be partially cloudy with occasional showers in western parts of the country, with highest daytime temperatures between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius.
And finally, let's quickly review some of the events expected to take place today.
The Chamber of Deputies continues its March session. The main points to be discussed include the government report on the state of the Czech society, the Czech Republic's defence strategy, and changes of the Value Added Tax and Consumer Tax.
International conference Prague Internet World 99 opens in Prague.
A delegation of Swedish industrialists are visiting the Czech Republic. They are to meet with president Havel and some cabinet ministers.
and the National Library in Prague opens an exhibition of ancient Arabic manuscripts.
And that's the end of the news.
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