News

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Charles Bridge birthday celebrations

Knights in shining armour and the chiming of church bells launched two days of celebrations to mark the 650th anniversary of Charles Bridge early on Monday morning. The mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk and other dignitaries turned up for a special ceremony on the bridge at 5,30 am - the precise time when on July 9th, 1357 Charles IV, King of Bohemia and future Holy Roman Emperor founded the bridge 650 years ago. Soon after the celebrations come to a close the bridge is to undergo a major reconstruction.

Necas warns excessive criticism could topple government

Deputy prime minister Petr Necas has warned against excessive criticism of the governments reform package saying that unrealistic demands could topple the centre right government. Mr. Necas was referring mainly to critics within his own Civic Democratic Party who have lined up behind rebel Vlastimil Tlusty in demand of a more right-wing reform programme and members of the governing Christian Democratic Party who are pulling more to the left. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has linked the Cabinet's future to the crucial reform package.

Trade Unions planning protest actions against fiscal reforms

The government's reform package has also come under fire from Czech trade unions who met on Monday to debate further action against the government's planned reforms. Unions say that the proposed reforms are unjust and would hurt middle and lower income groups, while benefiting the rich. The association's chairman Milan Stech said after Monday's meeting that a general strike could not be ruled out if the government remained deaf to criticism. In the meantime trade unions are expected to put more pressure on the government and parliament deputies.

Opposition leader wants medical probe into radar

Opposition leader Jiri Paroubek has called for an independent medical commission to determine whether a proposed US tracking radar on Czech soil could damage the health of the locals. The Social Democrat leader said the public had a right to know what hosting a US radar on Czech soil would entail and should be able to decide about it in a referendum. The US plan to extend its missile defense system to central Europe - with a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland, has evoked plenty of controversy.

The mayors of towns and villages in the Brdy Hills and other areas which have been considered as potential sites for the location of a US tracking radar on Czech territory have joined forces and say they will fight the plans tooth and nail. Several villages have already rejected the US radar in local referendums and opinion polls indicate that the majority of Czechs do not want it on Czech territory. Prague and Washington have opened talks on the radar, but no commitment has yet been made.

Jiri Dienstbier likely to run for president

Jiri Dienstbier, former Czechoslovak foreign minister and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is likely to run against Vaclav Klaus in next year's presidential elections, according to the internet news site aktualne.cz. Mr. Dienstbier has confirmed the news, saying that he would accept the candidacy if he won enough political backing. Opposition leader Jiri Paroubek said on Sunday that his Social Democrats were trying to reach agreement across the political spectrum on a candidate who would be strong enough to stand a chance against the current head of state, President Vaclav Klaus. Mr. Klaus has said he would seek re-election for a second term in office.

President Klaus on state visit to Poland

Czech President Vaclav Klaus is expected in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday where he will meet with his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski and leading government officials. Talks are expected to focus on bilateral relations, European matters and the US plan to deploy part of its missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. The Czech President will also be awarded Poland's highest state distinction - the Order of the White Eagle.

Police ask for help in identifying young woman

Czech police have asked for help in identifying a young woman whose severed head was found in a plastic bag by children playing behind a school in the city of Usti nad Labem. The police say the head belonged to a 17-20 year old woman who died a violent death two to three weeks ago. Police were alerted to the gruesome discovery by a 12 year old girl who rang the police emergency line.

Twelve people killed on Czech roads over extended weekend

The extended four day weekend proved to be the worst this year on Czech roads. The police were called to 1240 accidents in which 12 people died and 44 were seriously injured. The number of killed is four times higher than in the same four days last year despite the fact that a strict new road law went into effect last July. Observers say that Czech drivers have lost their fear of reprisals and are now worse than ever.

Czech May trade surplus triples to 241.4 million euros

The Czech Republic recorded a May trade surplus of 6.9 billion crowns (241.4 million euros, 329.1 million dollars), the Czech Statistical Office announced on Monday. The latest figure is a 4.7-billion-crown improvement on the 2.2-billion-crown surplus in May 2006 and reflects a 2.7-billion-crown decrease in the deficit for oil and other fuels and a 2.6-billion-crown gain in exports of manufactured goods, the office added. The April trade surplus came to 3.0 billion crowns, the first time country had a positive April trade balance since 1994.

Weather

The next few days are expected to bring overcast skies and rain with day temperatures between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.