News

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US missile defense plan to be discussed by NATO ministers

The US plan to site an anti-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland is to be discussed by NATO defense ministers at their meeting in Spain later this week. Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova confirmed the news on Tuesday saying that the issue had been put on the Seville agenda. "The goal is very clear. We want this issue to be discussed by NATO member states," minister Parkanova said. Czech opponents of the US radar base have highlighted the bilateral nature of negotiations between Washington and Prague and the lack of a NATO perspective on the proposals.

Under the US proposal, the base located jointly in the Czech Republic and Poland would be part of a planned US global missile defence system. If approved the radar base in the Czech Republic should go into operation in 2011 and house around 200 military and civilian personnel.

Village to hold local referendum on US base

Trokavec, a small village south-west of Prague which lies close to the projected site for a future US radar base, has called a local referendum on the issue. The village mayor Jan Neoral said that all of the inhabitants were strongly against the US base and he felt it was right that the local community should make its voice heard. The referendum is to take place on March 3rd. Other small towns in the vicinity are allegedly considering a similar move. They complain about a general lack of information and local inhabitants are fearful of the implications of living in close proximity to a radar base.

A decision on whether to allow the United States to build a radar base in the Czech Republic should be made by Parliament in the spring of next year. The governing Civic Democrats have strongly opposed calls for a national referendum on the issue, on the grounds that this is not the norm elsewhere in the world.

Ex-president against national referendum

In response to calls that such a decision should be made on the basis of a national referendum, ex-president Vaclav Havel said in an interview for Tuesday's Pravo that key decisions relating to national security should be made by Parliament. At present only the Civic Democrats and the Christian Democratic Party have openly supported the US radar base. The Communists are strictly against it and the Social Democrats and the Green Party have serious reservations about it, based on the fact that it is a US project which would not adequately address Europe's defence needs.

Russian ambassador to Prague says negotiations could change Russia's stand on radar base

The Russian ambassador to Prague Alexej Fedotov on Tuesday indicated that Russia's negative stand with respect to the planned US radar base could change. Following talks with the head of the opposition Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek, ambassador Fedotov said that Russia wanted certain questions answered and that serious negotiations could change its position. This is the first sign of flexibility from Moscow after Russian President Putin slammed the US anti-missile project as an attempt to "change the balance of forces in Europe" saying that Russia would take reciprocal measures. The leader of the Czech Social Democrats Jiri Paroubek also indicated that his party's negative stand to the base could change if it were to become part of a "collective security" agreement.

Czech Republic supports UN proposal for Kosovo

The Czech Republic has expressed support for a UN proposal which would give the multi-ethnic Serb province of Kosovo quasi-independence. The proposal tabled by Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari avoids the word "independence" but offers Kosovo self-governance, a constitution, anthem and flag. A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry said that resolving Kosovo's status would pave the way for the states of the region to be able to join European structures.

Svoboda - funeral

Hundreds of people packed Prague's Strasnice crematorium on Tuesday to pay their last respects to the successful Czech composer Karel Svoboda who died a week ago at 68 years of age. It is believed he committed suicide at his home on the outskirts of Prague. Karel Svoboda wrote the music for numerous hit songs, the scores for films, theatre productions, musicals and television serials.

GPs to go on one-day strike

General practitioners in the Zlin region will go on a one day strike on February 14th in protest at mounting problems in the health sector. The head of the Zlin Association of General Practitioners Lubomir Necas said that the reforms so-far undertaken were inconsistent and had done more harm than good. The quality of healthcare in the region is said to be at risk because doctors are allegedly receiving less money for treatment from insurance companies than last year, there is a lack of young GPs to replace aging doctors and restricted access to further education in the field.

Czech man gets eight and a half years in prison for child abuse

The regional court in Ostrava has sentenced sixty-four year old Ladislav Kovalsky to eight and a half years in prison for sexually abusing his niece for close to seven years, making her pregnant and later abusing the fourteen-month old baby as well. His niece Aneta came from a broken home and her relatives would often put her in her uncle's care. The abuse started when she was twelve. Even at 18 the girl refused to say whose child she was carrying, giving Kovalsky the opportunity to abuse his own baby daughter as well. Police officers working on the case said it was one of the worst cases of sexual abuse they had ever come across.

Rosicky voted Czech footballer of the year

Arsenal midfielder and captain of the Czech national team Tomas Rosicky has been voted Czech Footballer of the Year for the third time in his career. Goalkeeper Petr Cech who plays for Chelsea came second, followed by Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved. The results were announced on Monday night at a ceremony in Prague.

Weather

The next few days should be partly cloudy to overcast with occasional rain or snow and day temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius.