News of Radio Prague

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Czech PM says he was misquoted

Amidst a growing international scandal, the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has strongly denied an Israeli newspaper report claiming he had drawn a comparison between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Adolf Hitler. The prime minister said he was surprised to read about the alleged comparison and claims to have been misquoted by the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, which conducted the interview.

Foreign Ministry says the country's foreign policy remains unchanged

Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry has attempted to downplay the incident, saying nothing had changed in the Czech Republic's foreign policy towards the Middle East. In an official statement on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said the Czech Republic still favoured dialogue as a means of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said the statement allegedly made by the Czech Prime Minister did not represent the official stand of the Czech government and he expressed the belief that the incident was "a misunderstanding possibly due an ill-chosen phrase in English".

Foreign leaders express outrage, demand explanation

The report in Haa'retz has triggered protests from the League of Arab States, senior EU officials, Austria, Germany, France and Spain. The General Secretary of the League of Arab States, Amr Musa, said the Czech Prime Minister's views were biased and in direct opposition to European efforts to mediate a just solution to the Middle East conflict. The Egyptian government has asked to postpone a planned visit by the Czech Prime Minister. Meanwhile, in Brussels, Jean Christophe Filori – spokesman for EU enlargement commissioner Gunter Verheugen – said such language from an EU candidate country was "unexpected" to say the least. Mr Filori pointed out that the Czech Republic had closed the chapter of talks relating to a common EU foreign policy and had thus committed itself to supporting the EU's foreign policy line on all matters, including the Middle East.

Reactions on the home scene

In the Czech Republic, President Vaclav Havel said he was "deeply disturbed" by Mr. Zeman's alleged remarks, which he said could "only further increase tensions" between Israel and the Palestinians. The Speaker of the Lower House Vaclav Klaus called Mr. Zeman's alleged remarks "totally absurd " and accused the Czech Prime Minister of seriously damaging Czech interests by his total lack of restraint.

Bavarian government calls for closure of Temelin

The Bavarian government has called for the closure of the Temelin nuclear power station, thus joining the German government's call from last year. A spokesman for the Bavarian government said "an endless series of faults" had led to the decision. The Austrian Freedom Party is also pressing to get the plant scrapped on the grounds that it is not safe. The Temelin nuclear power plant has been plagued by technical problems in recent months and is to close down later this week for a whole month of repair work. The power utility CEZ which operates the plant claims this is a normal part of any trial operation.

Visegrad states to discuss common policy

The prime ministers of the Visegrad countries –the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland - are to meet in Hungary next week to thrash out a joint position regarding restricted access to EU farm subsidies which the European Commission proposed for EU newcomers late last month. The commission offered EU newcomers just a quarter of the direct farming aid that existing members receive. They would have to wait ten years to receive the full subsidies. In a joint declaration signed last Friday the Visegrad leaders say the offer discriminates against them and smacks of a two-tier Europe.

And, finally a quick look at the weather forecast for the coming hours:

we can expect an overcast night with rain or snow showers and nighttime lows at around minus 2 degs. Wednesday should bring partly cloudy skies and more scattered rain showers, with snow in the higher altitudes. Day temps between 2 and 6 degs.C