News

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President Klaus rejects deal with Christian Democrats over Čunek return

President Václav Klaus has rejected speculation about a possible deal between his party the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democrats, under which the latter’s leader Jiří Čunek would be allowed to return to the cabinet, if his party’s legislators voted for Mr Klaus in presidential elections next month. On Wednesday the head of the Green Party, Martin Bursík, warned against such a deal after Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek of the Civic Democrats indicated he would be prepared to accept the return of Mr Čunek as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, after an investigation into allegations he had accepted bribes was dropped.

Mr Klaus will face economist Jan Švejnar in a bicameral vote on February 8, with the incumbent regarded as the favourite. If the maximum three rounds of voting are required, they will all take place on the same day, the chairman of the lower house, Miloslav Vlček said on Thursday after talks with Mr Klaus and the chair of the Senate, Přemysl Sobotka.

Topolánek to discuss radar with Bush on February visit to US

The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, is set to hold talks on a planned US radar base in the Czech Republic with US President George Bush on February 27, the news website iHNed.cz reported. The meeting will take place during an official visit by the Czech leader to the United States. Mr Topolánek said there was no danger the matter would not be resolved before the end of Mr Bush’s term of office. The Czech Parliament is expected to vote following a NATO summit in April on whether to allow the building of the base, which would be part of a US global missile defence system.

Woman charged with murder of child suspected of previous killing of other two sons

Police are investigating the deaths of two sons of a woman charged with the killing of another of her boys. Antonie Stašková and her boyfriend Pavel Grepl are being held in custody in Ústí nad Labem after the discovery of the body of the former’s five-year-old son Jan, who had been missing since August. Now an investigation has begun into the deaths of the woman’s other two sons Radek and David, who both died (in 1989 and 1992, respectively) by choking before their first birthdays. Ms Stašková’s mother told Wednesday’s Mladá fronta Dnes she believed her daughter had murdered at least one of the boys.

Budget deficit for 2007 lower than previously approved

The Czech Republic’s budget deficit in 2007 was significantly lower than the gap approved by the Chamber of Deputies. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek said last year’s deficit was CZK 66.4 bn – some CZK 25 bn less than figure the lower house had agreed on. Mr Kalousek attributed the improvement to sound economic development, lower government spending and increased tax revenues. However, the minister said the fact a state at the peak of its economic potential had any deficit at all was bad news.

Constitutional Court rejects complaint against reform submitted by senators

The Constitutional Court has rejected a complaint made by a group of senators against measures to reform the public finances which came into effect on January 1. The senators, including members of the opposition Social Democrats, said there were problems with the way in which the government-sponsored reform had been discussed. However, the court said it would not hear the complaint because it was already dealing with a proposal to overturn the reform submitted by Social Democrat MPs. Opponents of the government reform bill are strongly opposed to new medical charges, which they say are unconstitutional.

Man faces up to 15 years in jail after trying to commit suicide by car crash

A man who tried to commit suicide by driving his car straight at another vehicle at a speed of 100 km an hour appeared in court in Zlín on Thursday on a charge of attempted murder. Rostislav Bednařík, who is 21, caused serious injury to the driver of the other car in the crash, which took place on a motorway last July. The victim, a professional soldier, said he had managed to swerve to one side to avoid a head-on collision: he said when he saw the car coming towards him he thought the driver must have had a heart attack or fallen asleep. Mr Bednařík could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Tourism body: Quarter of million Czechs holidayed over festive season

Around a quarter of a million Czechs were on holiday over the Christmas and New Year period, according to figures released by the Association of Czech Travel Agents. The association’s spokesman Tomio Okamura told the newspaper Právo that around 170,000 Czechs had spent the festive season at mountain resorts in the Czech Republic, while around 85,000 holidayed outside the country. Mr Okamura also said holiday vouchers had sold well, with up to 200,000 Czechs receiving them as gifts at Christmas.

Passenger numbers at Prague Airport continue to rise

Prague’s Ruzyně airport handled a record 12.44 million passengers in 2007, a rise of over 7 percent on the previous year, a spokesperson for the airport said on Thursday. An increase in passenger numbers in recent years has been partly put down to budget airlines, with almost a quarter of the airport’s passengers now flying by low-cost carriers. Officials expect up to 13 million will pass through Ruzyně’s terminals this year.

Cinema attendance increases, receipts also up

Attendance at Czech cinemas was evidently at its highest in 13 years in 2007, the Union of Czech Film Distributors said. Between the start of January and the end of November last year, just over 11.75 million viewers had watched movies in Czech cinemas, a rise of around a quarter of a million on the same period in 2006. Industry figures say the number for the whole of 2007 should reach 12.5 million. Receipts were also up, with the popularity of Czech-made films given as the reason for both increases.

Vaidisova out in quarter-finals of Australian Open warm-up competition

The Czech women’s tennis number one Nicole Vaidišová was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Australian Women’s Hardcourts in Gold Coast on Thursday. She lost 3-6 3-6 to Li Na of China in a competition that is seen as a warm-up for the Australian Open.

Meanwhile, Lucie Šafářová and Tomáš Berdych ended their participation in Australia’s mixed Hopman Cup on a high, beating India 2:1. The path to the final had been closed to the off-court couple after a defeat to the USA on New Year’s Eve.

Weather

It should be cloudy over the next few days. Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing point, before rising to a maximum of around 4 degrees Celsius at the start of next week.