News

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Social Democrats threaten to initiate no confidence vote in government

The opposition Social Democrats have again threatened to initiate a vote of no confidence on the government of Mirek Topolanek next week if coalition MPs on Friday obstruct an extraordinary session of the lower house which is to discuss the case of deputy Prime Minister and Christian Democrat chairman Jiri Cunek. The Social Democrats first considered this step last week when the prosecutor in Mr Cunek's case was replaced. The party then accused the government of trying to manipulate proceedings.

Mr Cunek has been under investigation for several months now over allegations that he accepted a bribe of half a million crowns five years ago when he was mayor of the Moravian town of Vsetin.

EU Commissioner praises Czech Republic for preparedness to join Schengen zone

The EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, has said the Czech Republic is well prepared for joining the Schengen border-free zone. Speaking to journalists after meeting Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer and Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil in Prague on Thursday, Mr Frattini said preparations went according to plan. Checks at border crossings will be abolished at the end of this year, but they will last until March 2008 at international airports around the Czech Republic.

US presses on with missile shield talks despite Russian concerns

NATO and US officials said on Thursday that the United States is moving forward with missile shield talks with Poland and the Czech Republic, as it explores the idea of a joint radar base with Russia. NATO defence ministers agreed in Brussels on Thursday to examine the implications of the US move to extend the shield into Eastern Europe and see how the alliance's planned theatre missile system might fit in.

Washington announced in January that it wants to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic linked to an early warning system, probably in the Caucasus, all to be operational by 2013. The shield is aimed at countering attacks from nations that Washington regards as "rogue states" such as Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised his US counterpart George W. Bush last week by proposing that they set up a joint US-Russian radar base in Azerbaijan. US and Russian officials are studying the proposal.

EU diplomats fail to agree on normalisation of relations with Cuba

EU member states have failed to agree to normalise ties with Cuba, opting instead to extend a suspension of sanctions on the country, European diplomats said on Thursday. Some of the 27 member states, led by Spain which normalised its relations with Cuba in April, are in favour of definitively dropping the sanctions which were introduced in 2003 but suspended two years later. But objections continue to be voiced, notably from Britain, the Czech Republic and Sweden which believe normalisation should not take place without democratic reforms in Cuba, the diplomats said. A proposal put forward by the German EU presidency on Wednesday to normalise ties was rejected at a meeting of EU diplomats ahead of a foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

TV Nova: South African court to decide on Krejcir's release on bail on June 21

TV Nova reported that a court in Johannesburg will decide on a possible release of Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir on bail on June 21. Until then Mr Krejcir will stay in a South African prison. He is now back in police custody eight days after walking out of jail on a legal technicality, police said on Thursday. Radovan Krejcir, wanted in the Czech Republic on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit murder, was released by South African police on June 4th after a 40-day period of waiting for extradition documents from the Czech Republic expired, according to a police spokeswoman. For over a week, Interpol and the authorities had no idea where Mr Krejcir was until he surrendered to police on Wednesday. Radovan Krejcir was arrested in April at Johannesburg's International Airport on an Interpol "red notice", which allows for an arrest and possible extradition.

Customs officers seize counterfeit brand goods worth 54 million crowns

Customs officers in the west Bohemian town of Cheb say they have seized 12,000 pairs of counterfeit brand shoes worth over 30 million crowns. The shoes were found in a truck from China. The customs officers have notified the rightful owner of the brand so the company can take legal action against such imports. Earlier this week, customs officers in nearby Chomutov confiscated another 45,000 pairs of counterfeited brand shoes worth over 22 million crowns.

Press: Armenian journalist sues RFE/RL in Prague over dismissal

The daily Lidove noviny writes that Czech courts will probably deal with alleged discrimination against some employees at the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague. The paper refers to the case of Armenian reporter Anna Karapetian who says her dismissal from the radio after 12 years is invalid and has filed a lawsuit against her former employer. The paper says that those RFE/RL employees who do not come either from the United States or the Czech Republic find themselves in a legal limbo as regards their employees' rights. While Czechs can rely on the Czech Labour Code, disputes with US employees are solved by the Washington-based Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. RFE/RL did not comment on the case.

Czech speleologists rescued in Slovenia

Four Czech speleologists have been rescued from a flooded cave in Slovenia, the Czech Embassy to Slovenia said on Thursday. All four are reported to be in good health. While exploring the Crnelskaja Jama cave they were trapped inside far below the surface after an underground river swelled on Monday following heavy rains.

Tennis: Berdych into semis after injury forces out Youzhny

Fourth seed Tomas Berdych has coasted into the last four of the ATP Halle tournament after quarter-final opponent and sixth seed Mikhail Youzhny withdrew through injury. Russia's world number 14 pulled out with a back injury and is unable to play Berdych - last year's beaten finalist at Halle - in Friday's quarter-final, giving the 21-year-old Czech extra rest before Saturday's semi.

Weather

Meteorologists warn of heavy thunderstorms which could hit North and South Moravia during the night with a chance of hail and torrential rain in places. The current sunny and hot weather should continue in the coming days with daytime highs around 30 degrees Celsius.