Government seeks support from Communists for crucial VAT bill

The ruling Social Democrats have been seeking support from the opposition Communist Party for its bill on VAT that President Vaclav Klaus vetoed recently. The government needs 101 votes in the lower house to override the presidential veto but lacks two MPs because of their health condition. The junior opposition Communist Party reiterated on Saturday that none of the party's deputies will vote for the bill in question. Finance Minister Bohumil Sobotka hopes to persuade the Communists to change their minds and invited party leaders for talks next week.

The VAT bill would lower the basic VAT level from 22 to 19 percent and move a number of items from the preferential five-percent rate to the upper bracket. Failure to pass the bill would seriously complicate Czech trade with fellow EU countries after May 1.

Foreign Minister Svoboda operated on in Brno after accident

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda underwent a neck operation on Saturday at the Brno Hospital after two days of monitoring and treatment. Mr. Svoboda sustained injuries in a car accident on Thursday. Doctors said Mr. Svoboda was recovering well from the injuries and will most likely stay in the hospital for one or two weeks. That means that Svoboda will probably not be able to participate in a key vote on a VAT bill in the Lower House.

Meanwhile, police have ruled out alcohol as a factor in the accident, which took place when the driver lost control of the minister's vehicle in a difficult turn. All three in the car were injured, but none of the injuries - including the foreign minister's - were life-threatening.

Czechs to focus development aid on fewer countries

The Czech Republic is planning to limit its development aid to fewer countries. The Foreign Ministry said the country now provides aid to more than forty countries, which is far too many. The target number is eight, including Angola, Zambia, Yemen, Mongolia, Vietnam, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro. The Czech Republic provided almost 90 million USD in development aid last year, which was 0.1 per cent of its GDP.

Tennis - Czech Benesova reaches finals at Estoril Open

The Czech Republic's Iveta Benesova enjoyed a comfortable win over unseeded opposition to reach the final of the Estoril Open on Saturday. Benesova, seeded sixth, overcame Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-3 7-5 in 99 minutes. She is to encounter Emilie Loit of France in the finals.

Czech weather forecast

We are expecting a partially cloudy day with occasional showers. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 17 to 21 degrees Celsius.