News of Radio Prague

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Government approves biological weapons defence plan

The Czech government has approved a defence plan to protect against biological warfare. According to a spokesman from government headquarters, work started on the plan prior to the terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11th, after British intelligence officers warned that the Al Qaeda organisation of Osama bin Laden has biological weapons at its disposal. According to the spokesman, the plan contains extensive legislative and information gathering measures to prevent attacks using such weapons taking place in the Czech Republic. The plan also involves training specialists and rescue workers and informing the general public on safety measures to take in the event of an attack. Security measures at all laboratories that work with chemicals that can be used to make biological weapons are to be tightened. The government also decided on Wednesday that the Defence Ministry will have the power to authorise the shooting down of any hijacked aircraft in Czech airspace.

Czech police: no added security measures

Following calls by the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation for attacks to be launched on American targets around the world, the Czech police has taken no further security measures. The call from Al Qaeda comes just days after US and British forces launched air strikes against terrorist camps in Afghanistan. According to the head of the Czech police force, Jiri Kolar, the police have not made any dramatic changes to already existing measures, but he told journalists on Wednesday that he believes that enough safety precautions have been taken for the moment. Following the attacks on the USA, the Czech police force increased security around the US embassy and around the Radio Free Europe building in the centre of Prague. When asked if there were any plans to move the staff of Radio Free Europe to a safer site, Mr Kolar said that this would only be carried out upon the request of the US authorities.

Telicka: attacks will not affect EU negotiations

According to the chief Czech negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka, the terrorist attacks on the USA and the current air strikes against terrorist training camps in Afghanistan will not have a great impact on Czech preparations to join the European Union. But it may, said Mr Telicka, make it easier for some sensitive questions to be resolved. This comes two weeks after Gunter Verheugen, the European Commissioner in charge of enlargement, stated that the situation after the attacks had provided the EU member states with a strong argument in favour of EU expansion.

Students protest over conditions in universities

Up to 13,000 students held protests in the Northern Moravian city of Olomouc on Wednesday over conditions in Czech universities. The students boycotted classes for two hours to demonstrate against a lack of funding for university studies in the Czech Republic. At a protest meeting, students and leading representatives of Palacky University in Olomouc agreed that further demonstrations are to follow, to bring public attention to the crisis facing Czech universities. One of the organisers of the protests told the Czech News Agency that funding that had been promised to universities by the government has not materialised, and that as a result, the student population in Olomouc has been forced to take drastic action. According to many observers, this is the largest such student demonstration since 1989, during the Velvet Revolution that brought down the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

Czech police smash immigrant smuggling gang

The Czech police announced on Wednesday that they have broken up a group suspected of smuggling thousands of illegal immigrants from Afghanistan and other countries through the Czech Republic into Western Europe. 14 suspects were arrested in raids across the country on Tuesday night, in co-operation with police in Britain, Germany and Austria. The group is believed to have smuggled up to 60,000 illegal immigrants into Western Europe since the end of 1999.

Weather

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Thursday in the Czech Republic should see partially cloudy to cloudy skies, with scattered rain showers expected in places. Daytime highs could reach 19 degrees Celsius.