News of Radio Prague

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Gross: no anthrax in Czech Republic, no threat of terrorist attack

The Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has sought to reassure the public over fears of anthrax and a possible terrorist attack against the Czech Republic. Speaking after a meeting with the military chief of staff and the head of military health services, Mr Gross said no-one in the country had been infected with the deadly bacteria; neither had the Czech authorities any reason to believe the country was in danger of a terrorist attack. Earlier a fire brigade spokeswoman said officers had so far been called to investigate 172 suspicious packages, many of them containing unidentified white powder. Firemen are treating all cases seriously, but so far none have been proven to contain any dangerous materials. There have been reports throughout the world in recent days of suspicious packages containing unidentified white powder, although most have been exposed as either hoaxes or false alarms.

Investigators examine claims that terrorist obtained anthrax in Prague

Meanwhile investigators are examining claims that a member of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network might have obtained samples of anthrax and other biological agents in the Czech Republic. A spokeswoman stressed that investigators were only relying on claims made in the foreign media, which the Czech authorities have so far denied. Britain's Guardian and Observer newspapers have claimed that one of the pilots behind the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center, Mohammed Atta, might have obtained small quantities of anthrax from an Iraqi intelligence agent during a secret meeting in Prague.

Suspicious package sent to Zeman during Peres meeting

A cabinet spokesman has said that firemen were called to government headquarters on Tuesday after staff received a suspicious letter addressed to Prime Minister Milos Zeman. The letter has been taken away for analysis. The spokesman said the letter had been sent from Japan, and arrived during talks between Mr Zeman and the visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Liberec workers in hospital for 'preventative treatment' after anthrax scare

Two office workers from the northern town of Liberec have been admitted to hospital for what doctors describe as 'preventative treatment' after handling a suspicious package. A hospital spokesman said tests were now underway to establish whether the two had come into contact with anthrax spores, adding that the results would be known within 48 hours.

Havel calls on world religions to unite in "spiritual coalition"

Turning to other news now, and President Vaclav Havel has called on the world's religions to create a "spiritual coalition" to counter the negative aspects of globalisation. Mr Havel, speaking at a multi-faith ceremony as part of the Forum 2000 conference, said such a coalition's task would be to search for fundamental ethical values and make sure those values were upheld in public life. The president said the attacks on the United States had shown how rapidly evil could be globalised, adding that it was now time to act to globalise good.

British immigration officers resume checks at Prague Airport

British officials resumed controversial immigration controls at Prague's Ruzyne Airport on Tuesday. Britain suspended the controls, which it calls 'pre-clearance measures' in September, saying that they could be reintroduced at any time. Britain first introduced the measures in July in response to increasing numbers of Czech citizens, mostly members of the Roma community, arriving in Britain to seek asylum. The measures were criticised by Roma groups and human rights organisations, who said they were discriminatory. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) intends to file a lawsuit against the measures this week.

Temelin brought up to 55 percent of operating strength

Operators at the Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear power plant have reported significant progress toward bringing the plant up to full capacity, despite fresh threats of border blockades by Austrian anti-nuclear activists. The state-owned energy utility CEZ, which operates Temelin, said the plant's first reactor had reached 55 per cent and was supplying power to the national grid following last week's scheduled shutdown. CEZ also said the government's nuclear safety office had approved preliminary testing for the second reactor, which is expected to begin operating next year. Temelin has experienced a number of technical problems in its first year of operation, and has had to be shut down several times for essential maintenance. The plant faces severe opposition in neighbouring Austria and Germany.

Former Terezin inmates mark 60th anniversary of mass deportation

Several hundred former inmates of the Terezin concentration camp in North Bohemia have gathered to mark the 60th anniversary of the mass deportation of Czech Jews to Terezin, known in German as Theresienstadt. Between 1941 and 1945, some 150,000 European Jews were sent to Terezin, 35,000 of whom died there. The remainder were sent on to Nazi death camps in occupied Poland where most of them died. The ceremony was attended by Culture Minister Pavel Dostal and representatives from countries whose citizens were interned at Terezin.

Hlinka fired as Pittsburgh Penguins coach

Ivan Hlinka, the Czech Republic's national ice-hockey coach, has been fired from his NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hlinka took the Penguins to the Eastern Conference finals last spring but lost the first four games this season. The Czech coach is best known for coaching the Czech Republic to a stunning gold medal triumph in the 1998 Olympics.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. Thursday will be rather cooler than recent days, with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 15 degrees Celsius. The weather will remain cloudy with fog in places. Temperatures at night will fall to lows of five degrees.