News of Radio Prague

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President Havel supports US call to war against terrorism

President Havel has expressed support for US President George Bush's call to war against terrorism. At a press briefing in Prague on Friday the President said he believed it was necessary to reply "very vigorously" to the terrorist attacks against US civilian targets. At the same time he stressed that this so-called war was not being waged with a particular state, nation or religion. "It is actually a war with terrorists" the President said. Leaders of all Czech parliamentary parties, with the exception of the communists, have welcomed US President Bush's address to Congress describing it as " resolute and responsible". Czech politicians particularly appreciate the fact that the United States is seeking allies from around the world in its fight against international terrorism, a policy which they believe to be the key to success.

Defense minister says key sites are well-protected

The Czech Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has said that key institutions and facilities in the Czech Republic are well protected against terrorist attack. Minister Tvrdik admitted that this was not the case before the US tragedy. The country's air defense units remain on alert and there is heightened security at all strategic sites, including the country's two nuclear power stations, government institutions, military sites, airports and embassies. According to deputy interior minister Petr Ibl the US tragedy has led the Czech authorities to effect a security overhaul, making permanent changes and improvements. Police are now considering ways to further increase security at the September 2002 NATO summit due to be held in Prague. The former Czech ambassador to the United States Alexander Vondra has been appointed the Czech Republic's special envoy for the 2002 NATO summit.

Lower House approves new asylum law

The Lower House of Parliament has approved a strict new asylum law. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent abuse of the country's asylum system by economic migrants and facilitate the process for refugees who are victims of political persecution. The law, which still has to be approved by the Senate and signed by President Havel, should enable a speedier processing of applications and prevent individuals from applying for asylum repeatedly. On the other hand it should enable asylum seekers to file applications at more places, including prisons and enable them to appeal the verdict of the interior ministry's immigration bureau.

Law on churches creates controversy

A controversy broke out in the Lower House of Parliament on Friday over the approval of a long-awaited law defining the relationship between the Church and the State. The Christian Democratic Party attempted to block the law's passage through the Lower House on the grounds that it left churches vulnerable to intervention from the state, not just in financial matters but in terms of their very existence. Following heated debates, the governing Social Democrats, the opposition Civic Democrats and the Freedom Union jointly pushed the law through pitting 107 votes against 59. The Communists, who like the Christian Democrats opposed the law, criticized the fact that it allegedly sets a double standard for churches already in existence and those yet to emerge. The law has yet to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

Vaclav Klaus says Czechs committed to EU accession

The Speaker of the Czech Lower House Vaclav Klaus on Friday met with the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi and the EU Commissioner for Expansion Gunter Verheugen. Mr. Klaus assured them of the Czech Republic's firm commitment to join the European Union despite differences of opinion regarding various aspects of the integration process. The Speaker of the Lower House said that the EU should not be disturbed by the critical voices coming from the Czech Republic because they were a sign that after a period of "naivete and romanticism" Czechs were taking a realistic and rational approach to their future in the EU. EU leaders assured Mr. Klaus that neither the Temelin nuclear power plant nor the controversy over the Benes decrees would block the Czech Republic's accession to the EU.

Weather

The weekend should bring partly cloudy to overcast skies with scattered showers and day temps between 13 and 17 degs C. Saturday looks like being the sunnier of the two days with rain falling predominantly in the eastern part of the country, Moravia. Sunday should bring more clouds and rain across the Czech Republic.