Svoboda, Powell, discuss Czech commitment in Afghanistan as well as future of RFE/RL

During a conference on Afghanistan in Berlin on Wednesday Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda met American Secretary of State Colin Powell, discussing Czech military commitment in Afghanistan and the Czech Republic's role in the continuing war on terror. The Czech foreign minister assured Mr Powell that the Czechs would continue in Afghanistan with 109 Special Forces troops taking part in the U.S.-led operation "Enduring Freedom" and additional soldiers taking part in the ISAF peacekeeping operation. Mr Svoboda also told journalists on Wednesday that the Czech government was interested in finding funds to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, for instance in building and renewing the country's cement works. However, for now it remains unclear whether the Czech government will be able to find the necessary funds for the project.

RFE relocation also discussed by Svoboda, Powell on Wednesday

On Wednesday Cyril Svoboda and Colin Powell also discussed the future of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague. The Czech government is currently weighing several possible relocation sites for the station, whose current lease in the former federal parliament building in the centre of Prague runs out this year.

1,200 Iraqi police trained by Czechs

The commander of the Czech contingent in Iraq Jiri Neubauer has revealed that Czech military police have trained some 1,200 Iraqi police since the end of last year. Mr Neubauer made the announcement on Wednesday just as a group of Czechs returned home after their first two-month stay in Iraq. Apart from their training mission, the Czech instructors, who are based near the southern Iraqi city of Basra, have also been involved in the fight against terrorism and policing duties. On Wednesday, 35 from a total of 80 Czech troops in Iraq returned home and will be now replaced. Meanwhile, four Iraqi children, aged between seven and fourteen, set to undergo surgery in the Czech Republic, also arrived on the contingent flight.

Parliament approves higher TV and radio license fees

The Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday voted in favour of raising TV and radio license fees to 100 crowns and 45 crowns a month respectively. This fee is to be paid by all households regardless of whether they do or do not own a television and radio receiver. The proposed amendment also envisages less advertising time for public broadcaster Czech TV - a reduction to 0.8 percent from the present 1 percent of overall broadcasting time. The bill was approved by a one vote majority and has been strongly criticized by the opposition. It must now pass through the Senate and then be signed by the president.

Jarab says Czech Republic should help North Korean seamstresses

The government's human rights commissioner Jan Jarab has said the Czech Republic should be prepared to help a group of about 50 young North Korean textile workers who are legal immigrants in the Czech Republic but are kept under tight supervision by the embassy of the totalitarian North Korean state. According to the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes they are not allowed to leave their communal living quarters except to go to work and are handing over almost all of their salaries to the embassy, allegations the embassy has denied. The revelations have caused concern at the highest level with Interior Minister Stanislav Gross saying the authorities were looking into the situation. The seamstresses themselves have refused to talk about their circumstances.

Rossmann pharmacy chain ordered to apologise & pay 50, 000 crowns in discrimination case

The Rossmann pharmacy chain has been ordered by a Prague court to pay 50, 000 crowns as well as offer a formal apology to compensate for discriminating against a Czech Romany woman. Renata Kotlarova was discriminated against by the multi-national company when she applied for work at one of the chain's stores in Cheb but was refused point blank and not given a requisite interview. Mrs Kotlarova filed suit against the multi-national firm with the aid of the Prague-based Counselling Centre for Citizenship, Civil, and Human Rights. The organisation sent one of its employees carrying a hidden tape recorder into the store to apply for the same job. Unlike the Romany woman, however, she was given a regular job interview, although she presented identical job qualifications.


Thursday is expected to be cloudy with daytime temperatures of just 13 degrees Celsius.