News

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Czech Republic sees favourable numbers regarding visa-free status

The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber has revealed numbers showing the Czech Republic has come significantly closer to meeting requirements for visa-free status with the United States. According to the numbers, the number of visas rejected for Czechs was 6.7 percent of applications put forward, a drop from around 9.5 percent. Under legislation adopted in the US this year countries could theoretically be granted visa-free status providing they meet key criteria, first and foremost posting less than 10 percent of applications rejected. Earlier this week, Canada struck down visa requirements for Czechs for short-term visits, a move welcomed by Czech officials. The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber said on Friday that steps towards visa-free status with the US could be achieved by the Czech Republic within one or two years.

Cunek expresses desire to stay on as Christian Democrat leader

Despite pressure growing within his own party for him to resign, Christian Democrat leader Jiri Cunek has expressed a desire to stay on in his party's top post. On Friday Mr Cunek reacted to criticism from a number of senior figures as well as regional groups calling for his resignation, saying he had always intended to see through reforms as well as to unify his party - tasks he says he is still prepared to undertake.

Discontent with Mr Cunek's leadership has grown over the reopening of an investigation into alleged corruption from the time when he was the mayor of Vsetin, North Moravia, as well as over a fresh scandal which broke this week, in which it was alleged that Mr Cunek abused welfare benefits while a private citizen. Against the backdrop of the latest scandal, Mr Cunek said on Thursday he would give up the government posts of deputy prime minister, as well minister for regional development, next week.

Social Democrats to push for vote of no confidence

The party leadership of the opposition Social Democrats has revealed the intention that the party seek a vote of no confidence on the country's centre-right government. The announcement was made on Friday. The Social Democrat leadership made clear it is hoping for early elections. The decision follows developments in government this week involving outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek. In the Social Democrats' view, the latest developments "deepened" what they see as an "ongoing government crisis". The centre-right government led by Mirek Topolanek survived a motion of no confidence in June 2007, relying on the additional votes of two former Social Democrat MPs.

Court upholds ban on extremist march through Prague Castle complex

The Prague Municipal Court has upheld a ban by Prague City Hall on a planned march by right-wing extremists through the Prague Castle complex. The court did so by rejecting a complaint put forward by right-wing activists. The decision was taken on formal grounds: a missing signature and stamp in the complaint. The extremists originally hoped to march through the city's historic quarter on November 10th - the anniversary of the Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht against Jews in Germany in 1938, but reported eight possible alternative routes for their march earlier this week. All have been blocked by City Hall. The organisers have claimed their march was to protest against the Czech military presence in Iraq. Jewish organisations have protested, saying the march was a provocation and an insult.

Bursik to temporarily head education ministry

President Vaclav Klaus has entrusted Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Green Party Martin Bursik with the temporary running of the education ministry. The news was made public by the president's spokesman on Friday. Mr Bursik, who also holds the post of environment minister, will take the interim job until a long-term candidate can be found. The Greens have tried but so far been unsuccessful in finding a successor to former minister Dana Kuchtova, who stepped down in October.

Mr Bursik has admitted finding a successor had proven more complicated than expected; he said on Thursday that the education ministry should first be stabilised before a new minister is appointed.

Klvana, Labus, launch radar campaign

The government coordinator for missile defence Tomas Klvana, together with popular Czech actor Jiri Labus, launched advertising related to the government's information campaign on missile defense on Friday. They posted the first of 500 posters which ask whether the Czech Republic should join the United States' missile defense system. The US is currently negotiating with the Czech Republic on the country hosting a US radar base. Mr Klvana told journalists the public would be able to find additional information on an official website and said seven meetings with the public were planned in November, in which he will take part. Opponents of the US base, meanwhile, have been running their own information campaigns critical of the US plan.

Baros loses driver's licence, faces court date

Czech international footballer Milan Baros, who plays in France's Ligue 1, will face a court date and the possibility of a high fine, after he was caught speeding in France on Thursday. According to reports, Baros exceeded the speed limit on a highway between Lyon and Geneva by 141 kilometres per hour. The footballer was at the wheel of his Ferrari sports car when he was stopped. French police confiscated both Mr Baros' licence as well as his vehicle. In addition to a hefty fine, the 26-year-old striker will face the possibility of a driving ban of three years.

Speed skating: Sablikova injured in training

World champion speed skater Martina Sablikova is in doubt for the start of World Cup speed skating in November. The skater suffered a fall in training, leading to a torn muscle in her shoulder. Sablikova fell at the speed of 50 km an hour, together with colleague Pavel Kulma, who suffered a slight fracture and is definitely out for the World Cup start in Salt Lake City.

NHL ice hockey: Rozsival scores in Rangers win, Rucinsky scores first of season

In NHL ice hockey action on Thursday defenseman Michal Rozsival helped his team the New York Rangers by scoring the second goal in the Rangers' 2:0 win over Washington.

In other games: seasoned forward Martin Rucinsky notched up his first goal of the season for St Louis over Minnesota, as did Martin Erat for Nashville. Nashville won 3:0 over Vancouver.

Weather

Cloudy weather is expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures in Prague are expected to reach highs of around 11 degrees Celsius.