News

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US president says he is working to abolish visa requirements for Czechs

President George W. Bush says he is working with the US Congress on abolishing visa requirements for Czech citizens travelling to the United States. Speaking to journalists, Mr Bush said he understood Czech frustration over the issue. The American head of state will arrive in Prague next Monday for a 24-hour visit. He is scheduled to meet with President Vaclav Klaus, the prime minister, and others. His visit will include the discussion of US plans for installing a radar base in the Czech Republic. Mr Bush may also visit the headquarters of the Prague-based Radio Free Europe: that visit is not certain some diplomatic sources have revealed. Officials, meanwhile, have said all flights to and from Prague Airport on Monday and Tuesday evenings will be slightly delayed because of Mr Bush's visit.

Social Democrat leader to meet with Bush

Jiri Paroubek, the head of the country's largest opposition party the Social Democrats, will also be among politicians meeting with George W. Bush during the US president's stay. Mr Paroubek and his party oppose the stationing of a US radar base on Czech territory, but members have indicated a willingness to back the project if it were implemented within a larger NATO framework. The Social Democrats also want a referendum on the issue. In an online discussion on Friday one of the party's deputy chairmen, Bohuslav Sobotka, expressed the need for NATO and the EU to look at the issue of missile defense head-on. He indicated that if the EU and NATO were not able to defend their citizens, he could imagine sole cooperation with the US.

Poll: Majority of Czechs oppose US radar base

A poll published by the CVVM agency on Thursday has suggested that 61 percent of Czechs oppose the idea of a US radar base being stationed in the Czech Republic. The CVVM agency said the number of Czechs who supported the installation - part of a broader defence shield being planned by the US - had risen from 26 percent in April to 30 percent in May. The government has rejected calls for a nation-wide referendum on the issue.

A number of villages near the military zone that could one day house the radar have held mock-referenda on the idea, with most locals voting against.

Schwarzenberg: Temelin to operate for 50 years

Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has stated that the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant will operate for another forty or fifty years. He made the statement in an interview for the Austrian weekly "News", indicating he saw Temelin strictly as an internal political problem within Austria itself. The Temelin nuclear power plant is based some sixty kilometres from the Austrian border and is regularly criticised by Austrian activists who say it is unsafe. While Mr Schwarzenberg expressed sympathy for Austrian fears over the plant he compared them to fears of the world ending, or a meteorite hitting the Earth. He told "News" that in terms of safety Temelin ranked within the "top third" of nuclear plants in Europe.

Man with "super TB", who flew on CSA, apologises for his actions

A 31-year-old American man infected with a rare and extremely dangerous strain of tuberculosis who flew on a Czech airlines flight to Paris recently has apologised for complications he caused. The man ignored doctors' warnings not to travel abroad. He said he deeply regretted his actions, but pointed out he had not officially been banned from travelling by US authorities. He is now under quarantine in the US. Passengers on CSA flight 0104 were advised to undergo medical check-ups for the "super TB". Health officials have said the chances of contracting the disease were low but could not be 100 percent dismissed.

Mayor presents Klaus with Everest ice-axe

Prague Lord Mayor Pavel Bem, who returned from a successful expedition to the Himalayas recently, has met with President Vaclav Klaus. During their meeting on Friday at Prague Castle the mayor presented Mr Klaus with an ice-axe he had used to successfully scale Mt Everest. On May 18th Mr Bem became only the tenth Czech ever to reach the top of the world's highest mountain. The 43-year-old mayor took two months of unpaid leave to go on the expedition, something he was criticised for by members of the opposition as well as the Czech president. But, Mr Klaus, himself a keen sportsman, was among the first to send congratulations.

MF Dnes: J.K. Rowling met with Czech government minister

The Czech daily newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes has reported that British author J.K. Rowling - of Harry Potter fame - visited Prague recently and met unofficially with Minister without portfolio Dzamila Stehlikova, in charge of overseeing human rights. Mrs Stehlikova said that Ms Rowling had expressed regret for strong criticism during her campaign against caged beds in Czech institutional care. In 2004 Ms Rowling addressed the Czech government on the issue, eventually sparking the removal of such beds from mental hospitals and other institutions. Some relatives and health care workers have since complained about the changes, saying they leave clients - mostly children or the disabled - at greater risk of falling and injuring themselves. But sideboards can be used when approved by clients' relatives or legal representation.

Fifteen-year-old girl - who suffered head injury on in-line skates - dies

A fifteen-year-old girl who suffered a serious head injury on in-line skates in the area of the East Moravian of Ostrava last week has died in hospital. The girl fell while going down a hill. She had not been wearing a helmet and had to undergo emergency surgery. Doctors say that the summer months see an average of 10 - 12 serious falls among youths or children on in-line skates, bike, or even on horseback in the Czech Republic. They stress that the chance of severe injury would be greatly lessoned by wearing a protective helmet. Under Czech law in-line skaters are classified as "pedestrians", meaning they are not required to wear the protective gear.

National Gallery unveils new "333" award

The National Gallery has revealed it will be holding a new annual competition known as the "333" award aimed at drawing work from young Czech and Slovak artists. National Gallery spokeswoman Petra Jungwirthova made the announcement on Friday. According to the information released a jury will select nine finalists among all entries and their work will be exhibited. The overall winner will earn a prize of 333,000 Czech crowns (the equivalent of almost 16,000 US dollars). The competition is limited to artists up to 33 years of age.

Weather

Mostly cloudy conditions with a chance of showers are expected into the weekend. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of around 21 degrees Celsius.