News

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Central, eastern European presidents meet in Brno

The presidents of 16 central and eastern European states are gathering in the Czech Republic's second city Brno, ahead of an annual conference which is being hosted this year by Czech President Vaclav Klaus. Among the subjects on the agenda at this year's meeting are dialogue with the European Union, relations with Russia and security questions. President Klaus has said disputes in the regions of Kosovo and Transnistria will also be discussed by him and his counterparts.

Ahead of the conference, the authorities in Brno hired specialised teams to remove graffiti on the route between the airport and the centre of the city. Pavements in the historic centre of the Moravian capital were also repaired on the eve of the presidents' visit.

President Klaus "trusted" by three quarters of Czechs, suggests poll

Meanwhile Czech President Vaclav Klaus remains popular with voters in this country; a poll conducted this month by the STEM agency suggests three quarters of Czechs "trust" Mr Klaus. He has enjoyed ratings of 70 percent or more since his election as president in 2003.

Charges of child abuse filed against aunt in Ondrej case

Charges of child abuse have been filed against the aunt of a little boy named Ondrej discovered to have been kept naked, bound and in the dark. Katerina Mauerova was arrested on Thursday, two week's after her sister Klara, the boy's mother, was taken into custody.

Social Affairs Minister Pavel Necas has filed a criminal complaint against whoever made public Ondrej's testimony to social workers. Mr Necas said the leak seriously violated the pledge of confidentiality and the protection of personal data. The minister also said he had ordered a thorough investigation of a complicated case which has gripped the country.

Both Mauerova sisters could face up to eight years in jail if found guilty of abusing the boy. Police are also searching for a 34-year-old woman who may have posed as Klara Mauerova's 13-year-old "daughter".

Social Democrats slam coalition reform plans

The opposition Social Democrats have hit out at a package of reforms agreed on by the three-party governing coalition on Wednesday. Social Democrat leader Jiri Paroubek described the government's reform bill as unjust, unnecessary and confused, saying Czech voters would end up paying for it.

The reform package approved by the Civic Democrats, the Christian Democrats and the Greens envisages significant changes in tax and social welfare, as well as new fees in the health care system. It is due to go before the Chamber of Deputies in June.

On Thursday Mr Paroubek made a fresh call for Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to face him in a live TV debate programme on Czech Television. In a letter, the Social Democrats chief challenged the prime minister to "be a guy for once".

Press: Czech Republic world's leading producer of poppy seed

The Czech Republic is, in terms of hectares sown, the world's largest producer of poppy seed, Mlada fronta Dnes reported. It was also the biggest producer in 2006, the paper said. The area planted with poppy has increased from around 10,000 hectares in the 1990s to seven times that today. The rise is attributed to higher wholesale prices for poppy seed and favourable climactic conditions.

Five Bulgarians arrested in Prague centre police operation against prostitutes

The foreigners police in Prague arrested five Bulgarian women on Thursday night during an operation aimed at prostitutes in the city centre. A spokesperson said three of 14 women questioned by the police had previously been ordered to leave the country, though their deadline for leaving had not yet arrived. Last year the Czech foreigners police expelled a total of 1,900 people, Czech Television reported.

Bark beetle could be good thing for Sumava, says Bursik

The expected incidence of bark beetle due to a hurricane in January could actually help restore and diversify forests in the Sumava National Park more quickly, Environment Minister Martin Bursik said during a hearing at the Senate. Mr Bursik said spruce monocultures were a bigger threat to south Bohemian forest areas than the bark beetle. Some experts contend, however, that trees afflicted with bark beetle - which often attack trees already weakened by other causes - should be destroyed before the beetle spreads to other areas.

Jankulovski wins Champions League with AC Milan

Marek Jankulovski has won the most prestigious competition in club football, the European Champions League, with AC Milan. Jankulovski, who is 30, struggled to break into the Milan team after joining the Italian giants two years ago, but has been a first team regular this season. The only other Czechs to win Champions League medals are Vladimir Smicer and Milan Baros, who took the trophy with Liverpool in 2005.

Prague world music festival gets underway

The annual Respekt festival of world music has begun in Prague. This year's festival was opened on Wednesday by Czech-born singer Marta Topferova, who performs Latin American music. The highlight of the programme is expected to be a two-day event on Prague's Stvanice Island in the middle of June featuring performers from Mali, Nigeria, Holland and Brazil.

Weather

It is set to remain very hot over the next few days, with temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius. It should be quite sunny, though forecasters are also warning of storms.