News

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Czech foreign minister warns against one-sided move on Kosovo

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has said it would be imprudent for ethnic Albanian leaders to declare Kosovo's independence ahead of an agreement. Mr. Schwarzenberg issued the warning at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Portugal where they are trying to forge a united front on the future of Kosovo. Serbian and Kosovo officials have been holding talks to settle the future status of the province but have made scant progress. The US has now said that it would recognize Kosovo should its ethnic Albanian leaders declare independence out of frustration at the lack of progress. Minister Schwarzenberg said a one-sided move would create much enmity and could spark a new wave of violence in the Balkans. The talks between Belgrade and Pristina are being supervised by Russia, the United States and the 27 member EU. Russia is firmly backing its ally Serbia while the EU remains divided over the issue.

Czech Republic's representative office in Congo looted in property dispute

The Czech Republic's representative office in Congo was looted on Friday in what is believed to be a private dispute over the building. According to the CTK press agency several dozen people forced their way into the building, destroying or taking away equipment. The looting ended after an hour or so with the arrival of the police. None of the office employees were harmed. Foreign Ministry sokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said the looting had no direct connection with the Czech Republic. It was sparked by a lawsuit over the building in which the Czech office rents a number of rooms. Prague has filed an official protest note to the Embassy of Congo in the Czech Republic and the Foreign Ministry is considering moving the country's representative office elsewhere.

Clean up operation in wake of regional floods

A big clean up operation is underway in many parts of the Czech Republic in the wake of regional floods. Water levels are gradually returning to normal and meteorologists say there is no immediate danger of more torrential rain. North-eastern Moravia was the hardest-hit - dozens of villages were flooded and over three hundred people were evacuated from their homes. Fire crews and volunteers have been working around the clock to clear the damage, pumping water from cellars, removing fallen trees and electricity lines. No casualties have been reported and the extent of material damage has yet to be estimated.

Breakthrough verdict on gender discrimination

Adriana Basovska, a former diplomat at the Czech Embassy in Libya has won a court dispute with the Foreign Ministry over gender discrimination. Under the breakthrough verdict the state has been ordered to pay her one million crowns in compensation. In January of 2002 Basovska was summoned to Prague over a security directives violation and stripped of access to classified information without which she could no longer work as a diplomat. A male diplomat working in Kazakhstan found himself in a similar situation. Unlike Basovska though he was not stripped of access to classified information and could get on with his career. Women's rights groups have welcomed the verdict as a big milestone on the road to gender equality at the workplace.

The search for a presidential candidate continues

The search continues for a presidential candidate strong enough to challenge the incumbent president Vaclav Klaus in next year's presidential elections. The ruling Civic Democrats will support Mr. Klaus' re-election, but the two smaller coalition parties -the Christian Democrats and the Greens - are holding talks with the opposition Social Democrats on a joint candidate. They are said to be discussing three possible candidates - the former foreign minister Jiri Dienstbier, economist Jan Svejnar and an unaffiliated candidate whose name has not been revealed.

Political observers say that the chances of finding a candidate who would be strong enough to challenge Vaclav Klaus are meager - not due to a lack of quality candidates but because the three parties will find it hard to agree on a single candidate and give him or her their full backing.

Czech GPs planning strike action

Czech GPs are planning to go on a one-day strike on September 19th in protest of the money health insurance companies pay them for medical services. Jan Jelinek, spokesman of the Association of Czech GPs said that primary care is deeply undervalued as a result of which many doctors are running into financial problems and are unable to provide patients with quality care. GPs have been negotiating with insurance companies directly but so far with no result. This strike will be their third protest action this year.

Social Democrats to work on their image

The leadership of the opposition Social Democratic Party has approved an action plan aimed at improving the party's image and attracting new supporters. Party leader Jiri Paroubek told journalists it was essential to cease internal squabbling and dispel two myths which were hurting the party - its alleged communist leaning and rumors of corruption.

Czech waste illegally dumped in Slovakia

The Slovak authorities say they have uncovered containers of illegally imported Czech waste and have launched criminal proceedings against unknown perpetrators. The waste - 18,000 liters of used oil - was reportedly brought in by a lorry with Czech number plates and left on the outskirts of a farming cooperative in central Slovakia. Policemen working on the case say that they suspect the perpetrators planned to dump a total of 300,000 liters of used oil on the site. In May of this year Slovak customs officials detained two lorries carrying illegal waste from Austria.

Syphilis spreads among Czech porn actors

The Czech Health Ministry has registered an increase in the number of people diagnosed with syphilis. The disease appears to have spread among the country's porn actors, twenty three of whom were diagnosed with it in August. The country's chief health inspector Michael Vit has warned of the dangers of untreated syphilis, which can result in dementia and death and urged Czechs who may have any doubts at all regarding their health to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Weather:

The coming days are expected to be mostly overcast with scattered showers and day temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees Celsius.