News

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Czech and US negotiators launch talks on status of US soldiers at radar base

Czech and American negotiators have begun another round of talks on a treaty defining conditions under which US soldiers will be deployed at a planned US radar base in central Bohemia. Issues to be resolved before the signing of a status of forces agreement include the legal status of US personnel at the base, income tax payment and the insurance of US vehicles. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek said there was at least one issue on which the Czech Republic would not back down. However, he said he believed a deal would be reached within the next two weeks, allowing the status of forces agreement to be signed in May at the same time as the already published main agreement on the building of the radar. The Czech Parliament still has to vote on the matter.

Russia, which has expressed strong reservations about the planned radar base and a linked missile base in Poland, wants to hold talks with Prague, Warsaw and Washington on allowing its experts to inspect the sites, ITAR-TASS reported. Both the Czech Republic and Poland are opposed to allowing Russian military personnel on their soil.

Meanwhile, the Czech Defence Ministry has refused the Communist Party permission to hold an anti-radar demonstration at the proposed site of the US base on the Brdy military grounds in central Bohemia. The radar would be part of a US global missile defence shield.

Government rejects compensation for Subcarpathian Ruthenia expellees

The Czech government has rejected the idea of paying compensation to Czechoslovak citizens who lost their property in Subcarpathian Ruthenia after the war. They were forced to leave the region when it was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1945. Both the finance and interior ministers opposed the compensation plan put forward by a cross-party group in the Chamber of Deputies, where the matter will now be debated.

IMF: Czech growth to slow to 4.2 percent

Growth of the Czech economy should slow to 4.2 percent this year, according to a twice annual report released by the International Monetary Fund. That would be a marked slowdown after 2007, when gross domestic product increased by 6.5 percent. Czech analyst David Marek said he regarded the IMF outlook as pessimistic, given that the Czech economy entered 2008 in very good condition.

Doctor’s fees for asylum seekers unethical, says ombudsman

The ombudsman says asylum seekers should not have to pay charges when they visit a doctor. Otakar Motejl said asylum applicants did not have the money to pay the fees, which were introduced at the start of this year. Mr Motejl said it was unethical for the state to ask them to pay. The Interior Ministry failed in a bid to introduce an exemption for asylum seekers, while the Health Ministry has called for another system of helping refugees pay for health care. Around 2,000 people apply for asylum in the Czech Republic every year.

Peruvian police arrest Czech man over cocaine

Police in Peru have charged a 68-year-old Czech citizen with attempting to smuggle 3.8 kilogrammes of cocaine to the Spanish city of Valencia. The Czech, who is alleged to have hidden the drugs in his suitcase, was arrested at Lima airport. He told Peruvian police he had been given USD 3,000 to carry the suitcase to Valencia, but said he had no idea what was in it. A year ago a 19-year-old Czech was arrested in possession of 3.3 kilogrammes at Lima airport.

New Havel play set for London stage in September

Václav Havel’s new play Leaving is to be performed at London’s Orange Tree Theatre in September, Lidové noviny reported. The play is currently in rehearsal in Prague ahead of its world, Czech-language premiere on May 22. The London premiere will mark the beginning of a season of plays by Mr Havel which will run until December. Václav Havel was a noted playwright and dissident before becoming president of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. Leaving is his first new play in two decades.

Weather

It should remain warm over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 18 degrees Celsius. We can expect sunny spells and rain in places.