Civic Democrats ready to form 'broad consensus' of political groups to call for early elections, says deputy chairman Petr Necas

The deputy chairman of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, told Czech Radio's radiozurnal programme on Monday that his party is ready to form a "broad consensus of political forces" to push for holding early parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 2006. The centre-right Civic Democrats won 18 of 27 seats being contested for the Czech Senate this month while the ruling Social Democrats failed to pick up a single seat. Commenting on these results, Mr Necas said the "democratic legitimacy" of the Social Democrat-led government was "gradually disappearing". This year, the centre-right Civic Democrats defeated the left-leaning Social Democrats in regional Czech elections and in the country's first elections to the European Parliament.

Health Minister Milada Emmerova has presented her draft plan to reform the health-care system

The health minister, Milada Emmerova, has presented the government with her draft five-year plan to reform the nation's heath-care system. Her proposals include increasing state oversight of health insurers and reducing spending on drugs. Ms Emmerova also proposed that every state hospital appoint an ombudsman to address patients' concerns.

Prague district court sentences Chechen gang leader to four-year prison term for human trafficking

A Prague district court on Monday sentenced 14 alleged members of a criminal gang for trafficking in human beings. The leader of the gang, a Chechen named Ivas Muzavev, was given a four-year prison term and fined 400,000 crowns. Other members of the gang, which included several Armenians and eastern European nationals and employed Czechs drivers, received suspended sentences or at most three-year prison terms as well as fines. Police said the gang had illegally transported at least 1,500 people across Czech territory from August 2002 until the ring was broken up in October last year. The gang initially focused on transporting people from India and its neighbouring countries but had begun to specialise in the former Soviet republics.

Local Development Minister Jiri Paroubek has sacked the head of CzechTourism

The local development minister Jiri Paroubek, announced on Monday that he has sacked the head of the government agency CzechTourism, due to what Mr Paroubek called "serious shortcomings" in management and wasteful spending. David Gladis, who has led the CzechTourism for over two years, was recently named "personality of the year" by a group of Czech tourist associations and unions and his dismissal was unexpected. Mr Gladis is to be replaced by Rostislav Vondruska, the former head of Prague's Congress Centre and chief executive of the Palace hotel.


Intermittent, light rain showers are expected throughout the country over the coming days. Daytime temperatures should range from 6 to 9 degrees Celsius.