News of Radio Prague

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Heavy snow, high winds continue to halt traffic

Parts of the Czech Republic remain paralysed due to snowfalls and high winds blocking highways and railways and cutting off towns. More than one third of Czech districts have been declared snow calamity areas. Some mountain areas are inaccessible and villages remain cut off as blizzards pile up new drifts as fast as snowploughs can clear them. However, the main highways and rail lines are kept passable. Weathermen say the situation should improve on Thursday.

Czech banks begin offering euros

Czech banks began offering customers the chance to buy the new single European currency on Wednesday morning, and spokespersons said there were enough euros in all branches to cope with demand. On Wednesday Zivnostenska banka was offering the single currency at the most advantageous rate, while Raiffeisenbank was the most expensive of the large Czech banks. Transfers of accounts in the currencies of the European Monetary Union countries were smooth.

Austrian defence minister demands abolition of Benes Decrees

The Austrian Defence Minister and deputy chairman of the far-right Freedom Party Herbert Scheibner has said he expects the Czech Republic to abolish the Benes Decrees before its entry to the European Union. Under the post-war decrees issued by the Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes, some 2.5 million Germans were deported from Czechoslovakia and their property seized by the state. Mr Schreibner expressed hope that a solution to the issues of the Czech Temelin nuclear power station and the Benes Decrees would be found in the course of EU accession talks. However, he refused to say whether the Freedom Party would call for an Austrian veto of the Czech Republic's entry to the EU over the Benes Decrees, as the party has threatened to do if Temelin is put into commercial operation.

Seventy percent of Czechs have mobile phones now

Last year, the number of mobile phones in use in the country grew from 4 million 3 hundred thousand in January to 7 million in December, according to figures released by the Czech Republic's three main operators. With 70 percent of the Czech population now having mobile phones, the growth is likely to slow down considerably this year, the operators say.

President Havel to leave for Canary Islands holiday

President Vaclav Havel is expected to go on holiday to the Canary Islands in the next few days where he is to recover from a recent bout of pneumonia. A holiday by the sea was recommended by the president's doctors. Mr Havel was released from hospital on December the 25th and has been recovering at the presidential chateau at Lany. Mr Havel, a former chain smoker who spent several years in prison under the previous regime, has had severe health problems for a number of years.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. Thursday will be bright but frosty and windy with temperatures dropping to lows of eight degrees Celsius.