News

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Hunt still on for missing girl

The search for a missing 13-year-old girl is now into its fifth day. The girl, named Anna, disappeared from a children's home in Brno on Friday night. She lived with Klara Mauerova, who is in custody on child abuse charges, after it emerged she kept her eight-year-old son bound, naked and in the dark. Ms Mauerova was in the process of applying to adopt Anna, who has mental problems; otherwise the authorities have no record of her existence. Many other questions remain unclear in the case, which has shocked the country.

Austrian government sends diplomatic note to Prague over Temelin

The Austrian government has accused the Czech Republic of not fulfilling all its obligations regarding an agreement on the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Austria's chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, said a diplomatic note had been sent to Prague, though he said his government had not filed a lawsuit against the Czech state. For its part, the Czech government says it has kept its side of what is called the Melk agreement on safety at Temelin.

Austrian anti-nuclear groups have said if their government does not take legal action against the Czech Republic within four weeks they will again hold protest blockades at all 16 border crossings between the two states. They warned that future protests would be longer than the two-hour blockades held to date.

President Klaus launches new book against "fashionable" global warming issue

President Vaclav Klaus has published a new book criticising what he calls the "fashionable" issue of global warming. Speaking at Wednesday's launch of "A Blue not A Green Planet", Mr Klaus said those who blame climate change on human behaviour represent a threat to freedom. Environmental activists demonstrated against the president's views outside the book launch at Prague's Café Slavia; their protest featured a person in a Klaus mask saying the world was flat and no geographer could claim otherwise.

Architect Kaplicky rejects Klaus's criticisms of library design...

Meanwhile, architect Jan Kaplicky has hit back at Presidents Klaus's criticisms of his design for a new National Library building. Presenting the project to the Czech Senate, Mr Kaplicky countered a number of arguments put forward by the president. For instance, he rejected Mr Klaus's complaint that its windows could not be opened; Mr Kaplicky said that was common in modern libraries. The green, blob-like structure should be completed on Prague's Letna Plain by 2010.

...while Havel expresses annoyance with "emotive" debate

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has also commented on the matter. He has described Jan Kaplicky's design as interesting and original. Mr Havel said he was annoyed by what he called the very emotive debate surrounding the design. But he said city authorities should have launched a debate on how to rebuild the whole of Letna before the tender for the National Library building.

The International Union of Architects is looking into the tender process, after some claims that Mr Kaplicky's winning design did not meet all the conditions.

PM admits discussing reform bill with retired Social Democrat boss Zeman

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has admitted he discussed a government reform bill with Milos Zeman, the former leader of the opposition Social Democrats. The prime minister said Mr Zeman, who is retired, still had a great influence on many Social Democrat MPs. He said he hoped some might break party ranks and vote in favour of a bill which envisages significant changes to the tax and social welfare systems.

With the slimmest of majorities and one of Mr Topolanek's own Civic Democrat MPs threatening to rebel, every vote will be crucial. The prime minister says he will push for early elections if the bill fails.

On Wednesday the prime minister said he expected a tough battle to persuade his partners in the three-party coalition to support the reform package between now and next month's vote.

Cardinal Vlk celebrating 75th birthday but unclear about future

Cardinal Miloslav Vlk is celebrating his 75th birthday on Wednesday. However, the Roman Catholic Church's most senior representative in the Czech Republic says he still does not know if the pope will accept his request to retire. Cardinal Vlk said he had sent his resignation to Pope Benedict almost a month ago but had not yet received a reply. He said the pope might ask him to stay on for two or three more years.

Alleged people-smugglers arrested

A group of nine alleged people-smugglers were arrested in Prague on Tuesday. The group, led by a Lebanese national, are accused of helping Egyptians and Iraqis enter other European Union states from the Czech Republic. Foreign passports, automatic rifle, ammunition and a bullet-proof vest were among the items seized during police raids on the gang members' homes.

Warm winter leads to more beer production

Beer production in the Czech Republic increased by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, the Czech Brewers Union said on Wednesday. The industry body put the rise down to a relatively warm winter in the Czech Republic, though it said exports were also up.

Tennis star Vaidisova misses second tournament with tendonitis

The Czech women's tennis number one Nicole Vaidisova has had to pull out of the Italian Open in Rome due to tendonitis. The 18-year-old, who this week rose to a career-best seventh in the world rankings, was forced to withdraw from the German Open in Berlin last week with the same problem.

Weather

Forecasters say it will be quite sunny over the next few days. It should get gradually warmer, reaching up to 26 degrees Celsius at the weekend.