News of Radio Prague

Salikh's release "almost certain"

According to the Czech Foreign Ministry it is "almost certain" that Uzbekistan's chief opposition leader Mukhamed Salikh will be returned to Norway, where he has political asylum status, rather than be extradited to his native country where he would face death or imprisonment. The statement came shortly after the Czech Foreign Ministry received a formal request from Norway, asking the Czech authorities to release the Uzbek opposition leader. Muhammed Salikh was detained at Prague's Ruzyne Airport last week and taken into custody on an Interpol arrest warrant. Human rights groups have repeatedly asked for his release claiming that Salikh's in absentia trial and conviction for a 1999 bombing was concocted by his political foes.

Czech EU energy chapter may be closed next week

EU officials say that nothing now stands in the way of closing the Czech –EU energy chapter in accession talks. The EU has hailed the Czech-Austrian agreement on the Temelin nuclear power plant as "an example of good- neighborliness in Europe", saying that the compromise reached in Brussels last week had removed the last serious hurdle on the way to the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. Under the agreement the Czech Republic agreed to implement additional security measures at the controversial power plant , while Austria said it would not block the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. An unnamed EU official said the Czech-EU energy chapter could be closed next week.

Lower House rejects proposed Constitutional amendment

The Lower House of Parliament has rejected a proposed amendment to the Constitution under which the president would be elected in a direct vote. The amendment was proposed by the Four Party Coalition and rejected by 86 out of 142 deputies present. Cyril Svoboda, leader of the Christian Democrats and one of the proponents of the law expressed regret as to the outcome of the vote and said that the amendment would have prevented the office of the president from being turned into a bargaining chip.

Proposed ban on tobacco advertising rejected by Parliament

The Lower House likewise rejected a proposed bill which would have banned tobacco advertising. A deputy for the Christian Democrats, the opposition party which drafted the bill, said it was a victory of profit over common sense.

Freedom Union returns dubious financial donations

In the wake of speculation regarding shady party financing , the Freedom Union has announced its intention to return two dubious financial donations amounting to 120 thousand crowns. The allegations of shady financing first appeared in Monday's edition of Mlada Fronta Dnes which accused the Four Party Coalition, of which the Freedom Union is a member, of rewarding generous sponsors with lucrative business contracts. The donations which the Freedom Union has decided to return were made by a firm which received a contract to re-build a sport stadium in Èeské Budejovice and one other which won a tender to reconstruct an area close to the Olomouc railway station. Freedom Union leader Hana Marvanova said that although the contracts had been won in fair competition her party wanted to remove "even a shadow of doubt" regarding the party's honesty and she would advise the other parties of the Four Party Coalition to take similar action.

Zelezny's lawyer to remain in jail

A Prague court of appeal has ruled that Ales Rozehnal, lawyer to media mogul Vladimir Zelezny, be remanded in custody pending trial. The judge said that the evidence presented suggested that Mr. Rozehnal might try to influence witnesses, fail to turn up for court hearings or even flee the country. Ales Rozehnal is accused of attempting to cheat a creditor. He is one of the key figures involved in a highly publicized legal dispute between TV Nova and the American firm CME which helped to set up TV NOVA in the 90s and was later sidelined. One of the reasons why Mr. Rozehnal was not freed on bail is that he is alleged to have a fat bank account abroad.

And finally a quick look at the weather:

Wednesday should be another gray and overcast day with temperatures between 2 and 6 degs C. Nighttime lows should drop to minus two degs below 0.