News of Radio Prague

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Government cancels tender for privatisation of Czech energy sector

The government has cancelled a tender for the privatisation of the Czech energy sector, following disappointing bids from foreign investors. Prime Minister Milos Zeman, who made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, said the Finance Ministry had been given until the end of February to produce a new plan for privatisation. The government had hoped to sell its majority stake in the country's profitable electricity utility CEZ and six regional distribution companies. However a decision was postponed following disappointingly low bids from the two bidders - France's Electricité de France and the Italian-Spanish consortium Enel/Iberdrola. CEZ owns and operates the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Cabinet to continue attempts to move RFE out of centre

Mr Zeman said after Wednesday's cabinet meeting that efforts would continue to move the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe out of the centre of Prague, despite critical comments from the station's president. Radio Free Europe president Tom Dine was quoted by the Prague Post newspaper as saying that moving the station out of Prague would be giving in to terrorism. Radio Free Europe broadcasts to a number of sensitive areas in the Middle East and Central Asia, and critics say the building is an easy target for terrorists. Armoured personnel carriers and paratroopers were deployed to guard the building following the attacks on the United States.

Czech anti-chemical unit to deploy in Kuwait in March

The Czech Defence Ministry has said the army plans to deploy an elite chemical warfare unit in Kuwait in early March to support the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik told TV Nova on Wednesday that around 350 soldiers, about half of whom serve with the Liberec-based 9th chemical warfare unit, would be sent to Kuwait. The unit's specialists can detect chemical and radioactive threats on the battlefield. Mr Trvdik's announcement came after Britain rejected an offer to send Czech paratroopers to Afghanistan.

Gregr submits anti-terror exports legislation

Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr has submitted a proposal aimed at preventing Czech-made weaponry - and even some non-military goods - from falling into the hands of terrorists. The proposal would expand current restrictions on exports to include manufactured goods and technology that may have military as well as terrorist applications, such as certain electronics. The arms industry in the Czech Republic and the former Czechoslovakia have raised international concern in recent years. In 1999 a high-tech radar system made by a Czech electronics company was allegedly used to shoot down a U.S. Air Force stealth bomber in Yugoslavia.

Haider: Czechs will be barred from E.U. unless his party agrees

The former leader of Austria's far-right Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, has said the neighbouring Czech Republic will not be allowed into the European Union unless his party agrees. Speaking in an interview with Austria's "News" magazine, Mr Haider said if a Freedom Party petition against the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant was a success, Prague would be forced by Austria to renegotiate the energy chapter in its talks with the EU. The energy chapter was provisionally closed last month following an agreement between the Czech Republic and Austria. The Freedom Party, a junior partner in Austria's ruling coalition, is unhappy with the softer stance on Temelin taken by its senior partner, the conservative People's Party, which is against vetoing Czech EU membership.

Zeman: construction of new car assembly plant to begin in May

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has said the carmakers PSA Peugeot Citroen and Toyota will begin work in May on a new car assembly plant in the Czech town of Kolin. The plant, around 50 km east of Prague, will cost 1.5 billion euros and will be completed by 2005. Mr Zeman said the factory would provide jobs for up to 3,000 people in a region with 10 percent unemployment.

Authorities in Krkonose issue avalanche warning

Authorities in the Krkonose mountains have warned of a serious risk of avalanches in the next few days, saying there were as much as eight metres of snow in some mountain areas. Access has been closed to all risk areas, and mountain rescue teams say even they are unable to get to some parts of the mountain range. The Krkonose mountains are home to the Czech Republic's most popular ski resorts.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. There'll be another overcast start to Thursday, with fog and smog in many parts of the country. Temperatures in the daytime will range from minus two to plus two degrees Celsius.