News

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Czech breweries raise first-half output by 3.9 percent

Czech breweries produced a record 9.92 million hectolitres of beer in the first half of 2007 due to heavy demand caused by warm weather and strong exports. The Czech Beer and Malt Association made the announcement on Friday, saying the 3.9 percent rise in production has put producers on course to beat last year's total output, potentially the best performance since the Czech Republic and Slovakia split in 1993. In the first six months of 2007, Czechs drank 8.15 million hectolitres, a 3.8 percent increase in consumption compared to the same period last year, while sales abroad rose 4.2 percent. Domestic production is dominated by three brands: the Inbev-owned Staropramen, the SAB Miller-owned Plzensky Prazdroj, and the state-owned Budejovicky Budvar.

Sparta coach attacked in Prague restaurant

Sparta football club coach Michal Bilek was treated at a Prague hospital on Thursday evening for injuries suffered during an attack by an unknown assailant. The incident took place at a Prague restaurant. Mr Bilek was sitting at a table with a colleague when he was approached by a man of about thirty who kicked him after knocking him to the ground. The assailant then escaped the scene. The Sparta coach suffered light injuries to his face but will not miss his team's upcoming league match against Zizkov, nor will he miss Sparta's second-leg game against Arsenal. The coach - who denied exchanging words with his attacker before the incident - is now expected to file charges against the unknown perpetrator.

Opposition party redoubles criticism of government

The country's largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, have redoubled criticism of the centre-right government, saying the cabinet was "incapable of communicating with the opposition and even its own MPs". The deputy head of the lower house, Lubomir Zaoralek, pointed to the case of Christian Democrat MP Ludvik Hovorka, who was the only ruling party MP to vote against the government's fiscal reforms earlier this week. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek, meanwhile, stated at a press conference on Friday his view that the coalition government - made up of the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens - would suffer increasing "strain" in the coming months, both over the state budget and in the choice of candidates in the upcoming presidential election.

Government MP calls for referendum on US radar base

MP Ludvik Hovorka, of coalition-members the Christian Democrats, has called for a referendum on a US radar base which could be stationed in the Czech Republic. His position directly counters that of Mirek Topolanek's government, which is not in favour of a plebiscite on the issue. The MP told the Friday edition of the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes that if it came down to a referendum he would "probably vote against". If the issue were resolved in a parliamentary vote, Mlada Fronta Dnes notes, the coalition government would need to find votes elsewhere for the proposal to pass. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who along with the government has tentatively backed plans for the base, has said that he will try to convince Mr Hovorka to change his position.

Czech mayors form association opposed to radar base

In related news, mayors from localities near the Brdy military grounds have formed an association of towns and villages opposed to the deployment of a US radar base to the Czech Republic. If the Czech Republic and the US find agreement in negotiations the radar base - part of a broader US defense system - could be stationed at the Brdy military zone near Misov, west Bohemia, some 90 kilometres southwest of Prague. The mayors' association is to negotiate with the government and its constituent document was signed by 31 of 34 municipal representatives, 27 of whom are from Central Bohemia. Only the mayors of Strasice, Hradek and Spalene Porici, all West Bohemia, declined to join.

Some of the mayors have admitted that a meeting with government coordinator for defence policy, Tomas Klvana, this week divided mayors in the Brdy area. It has been suggested that a recent 200-page report issued by the government, ruling out health risks from the radar (provided safety zone requirements are respected) has had a positive impact.

MP says he will back government

Christian Democrat MP Ludvik Hovorka, the only government deputy to vote against the government's public finance reforms this week, has dismissed speculation he might in the future behave like an opposition deputy. In a statement released on Friday Mr Hovorka stated he would back the current centre-right coalition government and support the Christian Democrats' programme. Earlier this week the MP voted against reforms changing the country's tax, social and health care systems, aimed at stemming the deepening public finance deficit. The government managed to push the legislation through by the slimmest of margins but required support from Milos Melcak and Michal Pohanka, two unaffiliated deputies formerly of the Social Democrats.

Specialists: Czech cancer treatment ranks in middle of list ranking 20 countries incl. US

According to Czech cancer specialists, the Czech Republic ranks in about the middle of a list of 20 European countries, together with the USA, for successful cancer treatment and not at its bottom as was recently reported by one survey. The Czech Oncological Society made the statement on Friday, reacting to the recently published Eurocare-4 study, which ranked the Czech Republic among the worst states on the list for cancer treatment. The head of the Czech Onolcogical society, Jiri Vorlicek, told CTK, the Czech news agency, that this was because Czech authorities had provided only partial data for the European study. The health ministry has promised oncologists such a mistake will not be repeated. Mr Vorlicek said that the oncologists' data is based on the national oncological register comprising the whole population. He added that cancer patients and their families were terrified to hear news about small chances of treatment, before they were told those were are at least the same or even better than in some countries.

Grygera out for 3-4 weeks

Defender and national football squad member Zdenek Grygera will not be able to play for the Czechs or for his new team Juventus Turin for the next three to four weeks. Grygera suffered a leg injury during the Czech Republic's friendly against Austria on Wednesday and is scheduled to rest up before rerunning to training. The injury is Grygera's second in a short period: earlier in the year, still with Ajax Amsterdam, the player suffered a knee injury requiring surgery. He transferred to Juventus during the summer.

Sparta to face Zizkov in first "Prague derby" of season

Sparta is set to face Viktoria Zizkov in the first division Gambrinus Liga in what is the season's first Prague derby at the weekend. In their last first division match-up four years ago, Sparta won 1:0. Zizkov is currently coached by Stanislav Griga, who once played for Sparta, while Sparta is coached by Michal Bilek, who spent several seasons behind the Zizkov bench. Sparta are currently fourth in the league but are undefeated in their last ten league games, carrying over from the spring.

Weather

Partly cloudy skies are expected into the weekend, with some sunny periods. Temperatures on Saturday are expected to reach highs of around 28 degrees Celsius.