News of Radio Prague

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Cabinet approves sending Czech troops to Afghanistan

The Czech cabinet has approved sending Czech troops to Afghanistan to take part in peace-keeping and humanitarian operations. Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on Wednesday night that the Czech Republic would offer its NATO allies an anti-chemical unit, a field hospital and another 120 to 150 soldiers. Both houses of parliament will discuss the deployment next Wednesday.

Three charged over faulty altimeters

Three people have been charged over the purchase of faulty altimeters by the Czech Airforce - two of them are members of the Czech Army's general staff and one is a former member. All three are accused of fixing a tender in favour of the company which produced the altimeters. Some people have blamed the faulty altimeters for recent crashes involving airforce jets though Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik has rejected that theory.

Energy chapter in Czech EU accession talks closed

The Czech Republic closed the energy chapter in its accession talks with the European Union on Wednesday. Austria regards the Czech Temelin nuclear power station as unsafe and Vienna had said it would try to reserve the right to reopen talks on the energy chapter if there were problems with Temelin. On Wednesday however the Austrian foreign minister made no mention of reopening the chapter.

Temelin nuclear power plant shut down for several hours

Meanwhile, the Temelin plant was shut down for several hours on Wednesday due to problems with low pressure in the first reactor. Temelin has been hit by a series of technical hitches since it was launched in late 2000. The plant has been criticised for its combination of Soviet design and western technology.

Czech Crown hits new high against the Euro

The Czech crown hit another new high against the Euro on Wednesday - reaching 32.60 crowns to the Euro. While exporters complain that the strong crown is making their lives difficult, Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that the strength of the crown was a sword of Damocles which should spur exporters to increase productivity and be more innovative.

Privatisation of Cesky Telecom postponed, says Zeman

Mr Zeman has also said that the government intends to postpone the billion-dollar privatisation of the country's biggest telecommunications concern Cesky Telecom. Elections are due in the Czech Republic next June and Mr Zeman said that the next government would get a higher price for the company. Shares in Cesky Telecom fell by four point six percent following the prime minister's statement.

Czech Republic appeals against arbitration ruling

The Czech Republic has filed an appeal against a decision by a court of arbitration in Stockholm, Sweden. In September the court of arbitration ruled that the Czech Republic had breached a Czech-Dutch agreement on protection of investments in the case of the company CME, which had invested in the Czech commercial television channel TV Nova. Under the ruling the Czech Republic has to pay CME the amount it lost - almost 500 million US dollars.

Bruekner named as new Czech football manager

The Czech football association has announced that Karel Bruekner will take over as manager of the Czech national football team. Mr Bruekner, who is 62, was assistant coach for five years under Josef Chovanec, who recently resigned when the Czechs failed to get to the 2002 World Cup.

Amendment to drug law rejected by lower house

The lower house on Wednesday rejected a proposed amendment to the drug law which would have made it legal to possess drugs for personal use. The amendment was proposed by an MP from the opposition Civic Democrats and was based on the findings of a recent study by the inter-ministerial anti drug commission. The study found that criminalising possession for personal use had not reduced drug use. Some have criticised the vagueness of the current law, which says that it is illegal to possess more than a small amount of drugs, but does not specify what constitutes a small amount.

Weather

And finally a quick look at Thursday's weather forecast for the Czech Republic. It will be cloudy with snow showers and it'll be cold - the maximum daytime temperature will be minus 7degrees Celsius.