Official day of mourning for Pope John Paul II marked in Czech Republic

Flags have been flown at half-mast and a minute's silence held around the Czech Republic on an official day of mourning for Pope John Paul II, who was buried on Friday. The pontiff's funeral was attended by the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and lower house chairman Lubomir Zaoralek. It is believed that a few thousand Czech Roman Catholics also travelled to the Vatican for the funeral.

Czech cardinal to say mass at beginning of election of new pope

The Vatican announced on Thursday that the election of a new pope will begin on April 18 with a mass served by Czech cardinal Tomas Spidlik. Cardinal Spidlik has spent most of his life in Rome, and was close to Pope John Paul II. The only Czech among the 117 cardinals who will elect a new pope is Prague Archbishop Miloslav Vlk.

Gross meets diplomat tipped to replace him as prime minister

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has held talks with Jan Kohout, the Czech ambassador to the European Union. The latter said after Friday's meeting that the two men had discussed the possibility of Mr Kohout, a career diplomat, replacing Mr Gross as prime minister.

On Thursday the prime minister said he would step aside to allow a new government of his Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union to form under a different leader.

Mr Gross has been under pressure for some months over a scandal involving his family's finances, and his government is hanging by a thread, with several ministers having resigned and more threatening to follow.

Civic Democrats still leading in opinion polls

An opinion poll just released by the CVVM agency suggests Mr Gross's Social Democrats, with 14.5 percent support, would come third in general elections. The right-of-centre Civic Democrats have 31 percent support, followed by the Communist Party with 15.5 percent.

Unemployment falls slightly to 9.4 percent

Unemployment in the Czech Republic stood at 9.4 percent in March, according to figures just released by the Labour Ministry. The new figures represent a slight drop on February, when unemployment was at 9.6 percent. Some 540,000 Czechs are now out of work. The number of applicants per job is now 10.1, the lowest number in three years.

Meanwhile, year-on-year inflation in March fell to 1.5 percent, the lowest rate since December 2003.

Health Ministry unhappy with sale of cigarettes at post offices

The Health Ministry has become involved in a dispute with Ceska Posta (Czech Post), which recently started selling cigarettes at some post offices, TV Nova reported on Thursday. Czech Post is wholly owned by the state, which campaigns against smoking. However, the Ministry concedes that selling cigarettes at post offices does not contravene the law.


The next few days should be cloudy with rain in places, with temperatures reaching 11 degrees Celsius.