News

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Catholic Church ready to hand over administration of St.Vitus

The Czech Catholic Church has agreed to hand over the administration of St. Vitus Cathedral to Prague Castle. The Catholic Church is thus adhering to the ruling of the Supreme Court according to which the cathedral belongs to the state. This is yet another twist in a thirteen year long legal battle between the Church and state over ownership rights. The Church won the Cathedral back only last June under a ruling by the Prague City Court but has now had to relinquish its right to it. Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said the Church would consider taking the legal battle to a European court.

Austrian government considering lawsuit against Czech Republic

The Austrian government has asked lawyers to look into the possibility of filing an international lawsuit against the Czech Republic over the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia. Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said that the request did not imply that the Austrian government had firmly decided to take court action. Austria remains concerned over safety standards at the nuclear plant and anti-nuclear activists question the Czech Republic's adherence to the so-called Melk agreement, which binds the Czech Republic to informing its neighbors about any problems at the plant within a set time limit.

The country's heads of government agreed last week to establish a joint parliamentary commission to monitor safety at Temelin, but Austrian anti-nuclear activists dismissed the talks and have continued to effect border blockades demanding the plant's closure.

President Klaus to hold talks in United States

President Klaus is to travel to the United States on Sunday for a three week visit which is expected to cover a number of outstanding issues in bilateral relations. His talks with US top officials will focus primarily on the US plan to build a US missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland and the lifting of visa requirements for Czechs traveling to the United States. The Czech Republic has promised to give Washington an official response within a month on whether the country would be prepared to host a US radar base on its territory.

Although the final decision will be made by Parliament, the governing coalition is divided over the matter. The Civic Democrats and Christian Democrats support it, but the Green Party objects to the fact that the defense project does not involve the country's NATO allies.

Bican remains high church dignitary despite sex scandal

Karel Bican, bishop of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, has not been excommunicated despite the sex scandal that surrounds him. The patriarch of the Hussite Church Tomas Butta said that Bican refuses to leave of his own accord and a vote by the Prague diocese had not gone against him. The 55 year old bishop recently admitted that he had demanded sex from a young man just released from prison in return for helping him find accommodation and work.

Social Democrats against medical fees

The opposition Social Democrats say they will not support a bill which would introduce fees for medical services. Heath Minister Tomas Julinek last week unveiled a proposal according to which people would have to pay for a visit to a GP, for a medical prescription, or emergency treatment. The Social Democrats have said they would only support such a bill if pensioners and children were exempted from payment.

Protest outside Libyan embassy in Prague

A group of around twenty Czechs and Bulgarians protested outside the Libyan embassy in Prague on Saturday calling for the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who were sentenced to death by a Libyan court in 1998 for allegedly infecting more than 400 children with HIV at the al-Fateh Hospital in Benghazi. The Libyan Supreme Court ordered a retrial after international outrage at the unfairness of the original proceedings. Muammar Gaddafi's government has now demanded 5.5 billion dollars in compensation if the prisoners are freed. The nurses' lawyer argued that the cause of the infections was poor hospital hygiene in Lybia. The Czech branch of Amnesty International says it wants to launch an international petition in support of the prisoners.

Czech military will introduce screening for drug abuse

All applicants for jobs in the Czech Armed Forces will in future have to undergo compulsory screening for drug abuse, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova told journalists on Friday. The decision comes shortly after it emerged that nine professional soldiers at the prestigious Caslav military air base - home to the country's Gripen fighter jets - use drugs. Tests were ordered at the base after the police arrested two soldiers on suspicion of drug-dealing. Minister Parkanova said that in future all soldiers would be subjected to random tests.

Fans of Shakira flock to Prague

Fans of Shakira have flocked to Prague for her first ever concert in the Czech capital. The 29 years old Latin American pop singer-songwriter will perform at Prague's Sazka Arena on 3rd March 2007. She will be singing hits from her latest album Oral Fixation. Tickets range from 1300 to 1600 crowns.

Avalanche alert in Krkonose Mountains

The Krkonose Mountains rescue service has called a high avalanche alert in all mountain resorts. Fresh snowfall overnight in combination with relatively high daytime temperatures are said to have increased the risk of avalanches several fold.

Weather

The coming days are expected to be partly cloudy with scattered showers and daytime highs reaching 8 to 10 degrees Celsius.