News

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O'Reilly: US has additional options regarding radar, rocket bases

A Pentagon official from the US Missile Defence programme has indicated that the United States has other options if proposed radar and rocket installations do not find backing in the Czech Republic and Poland. Speaking to journalists on Monday, Brigadier General Patrick O'Reilly expressed optimism over the plan's implementation, saying that within a number of years the system could be fully-operational. The US is to begin negotiations with the Czech Republic on a missile defence radar site that would complement a proposed rocket base in Poland.

Protest against US radar base goes ahead despite ban

In related news, opponents of the US radar base in the Czech Republic took part in a protest event in Prague on Monday evening. Their march through the city centre went ahead despite a ban by Prague city hall. Some two thousand people are estimated to have taken part. Civic groups and associations who organized the march say that the presence of a US radar base in the Czech Republic would harm the country's security interests. They have called for a referendum on the issue.

Debate on EU constitution, US base not included in lower house agenda

The opposition Social Democrats failed on Tuesday to push through a proposal in the lower house for a parliamentary debate discussing the Czech position on the EU constitution. A proposal by the Communist Party that the lower house discuss the possibility of a US radar base in the Czech Republic also did not pass. Both were rejected by votes from the ruling coalition. The Chamber of Deputies deputy chairman Lubomir Zaoralek said he expected the issue of EU constitution to be raised again in the near future.

Autopsy confirms Svoboda suicide

Following autopsy results, police have confirmed that the death of composer Karel Svoboda on Sunday was indeed a case of suicide. The body of the 68-year-old Svoboda was found by his wife on Sunday evening at the couple's property in a Prague suburb. He had taken his life using a registered firearm. Karel Svoboda was a household name in the Czech Republic for more than thirty years: he wrote the music for numerous hit songs and also wrote well-known scores for films, musicals and theatre productions.

Brno to transfer Tugendhat villa to state to pave way for restitution

Councillors at city hall in Brno, Moravia, have agreed that the Modernist Tugendhat villa, designed by legendary architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, should be transferred to the state. The move is intended to facilitate the building's eventual return to the Tugendhat family, the site's original owners. The Tugendhats, who are Jewish, lost the villa when they fled Czechoslovakia in 1938 ahead of the arrival of the Nazis. Family members have said that the building, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, will remain open to the public. It will have to undergo needed renovations.

Petrochemical holding group Unipetrol sells Kaucuk

The petrochemical holding group Unipetrol has sold Kaucuk - a Czech chemicals firm - to Polish chemicals company Dwory for the equivalent of more than 250 million US dollars. The sale had been under negotiation for some time. Dwory, one of twenty-six companies that expressed interest in the original tender, is a strategic partner to Poland's PKN Orlen, the majority owner of Unipetrol. Some minority shareholders reportedly opposed the deal.

Aero Vodochody to layoff 450 employees

The Czech plane manufacturer Aero Vodochody has announced plans to layoff 450 out of 1644 employees as part of restructuring measures this year. The announcement was made by the company's head of personnel on Tuesday. Employees laid off will be given five or even six months severance pay as well as retraining to help in their jobs search. Aero Vodochody expects to post a loss of around 1 billion crowns for 2006, the equivalent of around 46 million US dollars.

Regional court hands down tougher sentences for police officers

The regional court in Brno has handed down sentences of two years in prison to two police officers found guilty of beating up and mentally torturing a fourteen-year-old Romany boy. The court stiffened suspended sentences handed down last year by a city court, originally appealed by both the defendants and the prosecution. According to the court, the officers harassed the victim and one of his friends, but let the other boy go. The remaining boy was then beaten up. An officer twice aimed an unloaded firearm at the boy's head and pulled the trigger.

Former football boss stays in custody on kidnapping charges

Czech authorities have rejected a request for the release of Jaroslav Starka, the former head of Czech football club Marila Pribram, who is being held in connection with the kidnapping and death of Lambert Krejcir, the father of a fugitive Czech billionaire. The police allege that Starka and six other men either kidnapped or attempted to kidnap Mr Krejcir and then subsequently killed him. He disappeared in the autumn of 2002; his body has never been found.

Four soldiers arrested in drugs bust

Four professional soldiers have been arrested at an air base in Caslav, Central Bohemia, as part of a major drugs raid by police, the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes reports. The paper says that the four men are suspected of receiving and distributing heroin. The detained soldiers are aged 20-22 and are part of the technical personnel of the air base. They have been relieved of their duties until the case is fully investigated. A senior police officer told Mlada Fronta Dnes that the drugs investigation in Caslav was still ongoing.

Fighter pilots escort plane to Poland

Pilots from the air force base in Caslav helped a Hungarian civilian plane find its way to Poland after it lost contact with air controllers on Monday. The small two-engine Foker was flying from Dresden to Poland and found itself off course over the Frydlant region in north Bohemia. The pilots escorted the plane en route to Poland until it established contact with Polish air traffic controllers.

Plekanec helps Canadiens past Ottawa on "historic night"

In Montreal on Monday Czech ice hockey forward Tomas Plekanec helped his team, the Montreal Canadiens, down the Ottawa Senators 3:1. Plekanec scored the Canadiens' final goal on a night honouring legendary Montreal goalie Ken Dryden (when his No. 29 jersey was retired). The win helped Montreal slip just past Ottawa to regain the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.

Players named for Davis Cup

Tomas Berdych, the world number 12 in tennis, has been named to the Czech team for the Davis Cup World Group first round tie against the United States in Moravia next month. Joining Berdych on captain Jarolsav Navratil's team are Ivo Minar and Pavel Vizner - representing the country for the first time at this level. Lukas Dlouhy, 23, who is 91st in world rankings, and who has competed in just one Davis Cup match, completes the line-up.

Weather

The next few days will see a possibility of intermittent showers and even sleet. Daytime temperatures are expected to hover between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius.