News

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US anti-missile system would defend whole Euro-Atlantic area, says Topolanek

The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, says a planned US anti-missile defence system will protect the whole of the Euro-Atlantic area. Speaking in Prague at a conference about US plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic, Mr Topolanek said unless European states expressed the will to defend themselves, they could face destruction. He pointed out that the anti-missile system was defensive, not offensive, adding that Russian criticism of the plan was aimed at weakening Euro-Atlantic ties.

US President George Bush will discuss the radar base with Mr Topolanek and the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, in Prague at the start of next week.

Czech newspapers reported on Thursday that Mr Bush will not, as previously suggested, be accompanied by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

Most Czechs still opposed to US radar base

Meanwhile, an opinion poll published on Thursday suggests 61 percent of Czech are opposed to the location of a US radar base in the Czech Republic. The CVVM agency said the number of Czechs who supported it had risen from 26 percent in April to 30 percent in May. The government has rejected calls for a referendum on the issue.

Police accuse witnesses of perjury in Cunek case

The police have accused a number of witnesses of giving false testimony to the benefit of Deputy Prime Minister Jiri Cunek, who is accused of taking bribes when he was mayor of Vsetin, Pravo reported. Police described as untrue statements asserting that Mr Cunek could not have accepted a bribe in Vsetin at a stated time because the three witnesses had seen him elsewhere. They believe the witnesses themselves were elsewhere, Pravo said. Meanwhile, a police officer involved in the case will also be questioned, the daily reported. For his part Mr Cunek says the police are trying to scare witnesses and divert attention from their own mistakes.

Jiri Cunek has come under pressure to resign over the bribery allegations and other affairs. However, he has said he will not leave the cabinet, where he is also regional development minister, even if charges are filed against him.

Every other Czech child between three and five cannot get into kindergarten

Every second child between the ages of three and five is being turned away by overcrowded Czech kindergartens, Lidove noviny reported, quoting a study prepared for the Social Affairs Ministry. The paper said preference was being given to children over 5, who kindergartens are legally obliged to accept. But while there is a shortage of places in kindergartens, there is lower interest in nurseries for younger children, which are being closed down.

Czech interest rates up but still lowest in EU

The Czech central bank raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point. The benchmark two-week repo rate has increased to 2.75 percent, which is the lowest in the European Union. The Czech National Bank last raised interest rates eight months ago, also by a quarter of a percent, though at that time the hike surprised analysts.

Doctors group warns patients of risks of going to "healers"

The Czech Doctors' Chamber has issued a warning against the unrealisable promises of "healers". The organisation's president, Milan Kubek, said cancer victims turned most often to self-described healers, and there was a danger they could miss the point at which classical medicine could help them. Mr Kubek said there was no way of prosecuting healers if they caused harm to patients; the only doctors can do is to alert the public to the risks of alternative medicine, he said.

Fresh twist in bizarre Mauer family case

Another person attended a university course in place of a missing woman who evidently hoped to acquire the identity of a 13-year-old, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. Barbora Skrlova enrolled in the course at Brno's Masaryk University, though the person photographed in her documents there was in fact Katerina Mauerova, the sister of the woman who was apparently trying to "adopt" Ms Skrlova under the pretence that she was an abandoned child.

Both Katerina Mauerova and her sister Klara are in custody on charges of abusing the latter's seven-year-old son Ondrej. Barbora Skrlova is believed to have been posing as the boy's sister "Anicka". Police are searching for her, though they say it is possible she has left the country. The bizarre case has gripped the country.

CzechInvest going through personnel crisis, says business daily

The state agency CzechInvest is going through a personnel crisis, with almost half of its staff of 300 quitting, Hospodarske noviny reported. Staff have been leaving in droves since Industry Minister Martin Riman sacked Tomas Hruda as director of CzechInvest in April. So far it has managed to replace less than 20 of the 133 employees who quit, the paper said. Minister Riman says, however, that the agency is working well despite the staff shortage.

Gas prices rise 2 percent

Czech households will have to pay an additional 2 percent for natural gas from the beginning of July. Supplier RWE Transgas said the reason for the increase was unfavourable developments on world oil and coal markets. The Czech natural gas market has been completely liberalised since the beginning of April.

Berdych and Stepanek out of French Open

The two leading Czech men's players Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek have been knocked out of the French Open. Berdych was beaten by Garcia-Lopez of Spain in the second round. Stepanek had caused an upset by overcoming Chilean fifth seed Fernando Gonzalez in the first round, but himself exited in the second after losing to Roger-Vasselin of France. In women's tennis, Lucie Safarova will face France's Amelie Mauresmo in the third round after seeing off Nicole Pratt of Australia.

Weather

It should get a little warmer over the next few days, with temperatures set to reach up to 26 degrees Celsius. Bright spells are expected, though there will be rain or even storms in places.