08-09-2003

All papers today speculate on the future of the Middle East peace plan, which came under great pressure with the resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Other stories featured on the front pages include the arrival of nine Iraqi children who have come to Prague to undergo heart surgery as part of a humanitarian aid programme, and the disclosure of a new video shot by a Czech construction worker during the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers two years ago.

LIDOVE NOVINY and MLADA FRONTA DNES report on their front pages that the only known video of the crash of the two passenger planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was shot by a Czech citizen who was trying out his new video camera. The construction worker, Pavel Hlava, who lives in Queens, New York City, said he offered the video to the US media a long time ago but apparently failed due to a language barrier. It was disclosed on the New York Times Internet page on Saturday and will be aired on the US TV channel ABC tonight. Federal investigators are reportedly trying to obtain a copy as it could, for example, help investigators determine the exact speed at which the first plane hit the tower and help engineers understand why it crumbled, the papers report.

MLADA FRONTA DNES writes about a plan by Education Minister Petra Buzkova to propose new legislation that would protect the children of divorced couples from being affected by battles involving custody issues. The decision came in reaction to a case the paper reported about on Saturday, in which a ten year old boy suffered a psychological breakdown when social workers came for him at school to take him to his father, whom he had not seen for two years.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports that Karel Cermak, the lawyer whom Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has chosen to fill the currently vacant post of justice minister supports the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility, which currently stands at fifteen years. The paper says that the opposition Civic Democrats have twice this year tried to get the lower house to pass legislation reducing the minimum age to fourteen but have failed, mainly because the former justice minister Pavel Rychetsky opposed the proposal.

PRAVO features an interview with Prague Police Chief Zdenek Janicek. He tells the paper that Prague is the only big metropolis in the country and therefore attracts thieves, drug dealers, traffickers, and other criminals from all over the Czech Republic and even abroad. Statistics show that they commit around 120,000 crimes a year. This, according to Mr Janicek, is a third of the total number of crimes committed in the Czech Republic, in a city that only holds one tenth of the country's population. But despite this, the Czech capital is just as safe, and often even safer, than other European cities, he says.

Former defence minister Jaroslav Tvrdik is still in the leadership of the senior ruling coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, despite having accepted the post of head of the board of directors of the Czech national carrier Czech Airlines, HOSPODARSKE NOVINY comments. It quotes Health Minister Marie Souckova as saying that there is no conflict of interests as there would have been if Mr Tvrdik were to hold a constitutional post. Despite Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla having urged all Social Democrat MPs to leave their posts at state-owned companies, he has voiced support for Mr Tvrdik's new job, saying that when one has to represent the state in complicated matters the kind of experience he possesses can come in handy.

08-09-2003