News

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President Bush and US Ambassador to Prague on visa policy

US President George W. Bush speaking with President Vaclav Klaus at the NATO Summit underway in Riga, has reportedly reiterated conviction that visa requirements for Czechs travelling to the US will eventually be waived. Speaking to reporters after a brief meeting with his US counterpart, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said President Bush anticipated intense debate in Congress, which will have the final word.

While Czech Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra has put two years as an estimate for changes in visa policy, some US officials are being more cautious. The US Ambassador to Prague Richard Graber on Wednesday reacted by suggesting that while two years was perhaps a good estimate, the timeframe couldn't be guaranteed.

Premysl Sobotka re-elected as Senate chairman

Premysl Sobotka of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats has been re-elected to the post of Senate chairman. On Wednesday, 74 out of 77 senators present supported him in a secret ballot. It was the highest support for any chairman in the upper house's ten-year history. Mr Sobotka's party has a majority in the senate, holding 41 of 81 seats. Regarding his continuing on in the post, Mr Sobotka said one of his priorities was to increase the Senate's role in foreign policy.

War of words interrupts lower house session

Wednesday's lower house session had to be interrupted after a row broke out between MPs of the two strongest parties. The deputies were in their first reading of laws and contracts when the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats clashed over a proposal to fully dissolve the Ministry of Information Technology in 2007. The war of words was sparked off by a remark made by former health minister and Social Democrat MP David Rath. He accused Civic Democrat Interior Minister Ivan Langer of being particularly eager to take over one of the IT ministry's projects because he would benefit from it personally.

Introduction of electronic road toll system may be postponed

The Austrian company Kapsch will not be able to launch test operations of a new road toll system this Friday. The transport ministry has not given the test run the green light. The ministry says some toll gates are hundreds of metres from where they were supposed to be. It also criticises the use of diesel units. Without the test operation, the introduction of the country's first electronic road toll system for vehicles above 12 tonnes cannot be launched on January 1. The new system is estimated to bring in around 10.5 billion crowns (over 4.5 million US dollars) a year.

Tests confirm 25th case of BSE; 2nd case this year

Tests have confirmed the Czech Republic's 25th case of BSE, or mad cow disease. The State Veterinary Authority reported on Wednesday that the infected cow was from a farm near Semily in northeast Bohemia. Some two hundred cows will have to be slaughtered as a precautionary measure. Since 2001, when the first case of BSE was recorded, over one million cows have been tested.

Weather

The next few days should continue to have cloudy skies. Daytime temperatures will range from 7 to 10 degrees Celsius.