News of Radio Prague

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Czech anti-chemical troops begin arriving in Kuwait

Czech anti-chemical warfare troops have begun arriving in Kuwait to conduct exercises with Kuwaiti and U.S. forces. The pan-Arab al-Hayat daily quoted Kuwaiti Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Hamad al-Sabah as saying the 350-strong Czech force would be in Kuwait for up to three months for the exercises. The Czech Defence Ministry said in December that Prague was sending about 300 troops to Kuwait to help in the U.S.-led military campaign in the region.

Prague protests against Austrian media "manipulating" history

The Czech embassy in Vienna has protested against what it describes as the "manipulation" of history by the Austrian media. The embassy said the mass-circulation Kronen Zeitung, read by an estimated three million Austrians each day, had made false claims about the razing of the Czech village of Lidice by the Nazis in June 1942. Kronen Zeitung claimed the massacre had been committed by "30 Czech gendarmes of the Prague security police". The embassy said there was documentary evidence proving the atrocities were committed by German and Austrian members of the Nazi secret police. Hitler ordered the razing of Lidice in retaliation for the assassination of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich, the governor of the occupied Czech lands.

German Expellees: Czechs do not belong in Europe with Benes decrees

And the protest comes at a time of heightened tension between the Czech Republic and its neighbours, over the post-war expulsion of Czechoslovakia's large ethnic German community, known as Sudeten Germans. Erika Steinbach, head of Germany's Federation of Expellees, said on Tuesday that the Czech Republic should only be admitted to the European Union if it lifts the post-war Benes decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion. Mrs Steinbach said human rights and not just economic performance must be a measuring stick for EU membership. Czech officials refuse to discuss abolishing the decrees, and the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenther Verheugen, has said they will not be a factor in membership talks.

Hungarian Culture Ministry officials express meeting over cancellations

Meanwhile in Hungary, Culture Ministry officials have expressed regret that the Czech and Slovak culture ministers will not be participating in a regional co-operation meeting this week. The cancellations came amid a diplomatic row between Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic over the Benes decrees. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, told a meeting of the European Parliament last week that the two countries should lift the decrees before joining the European Union. The Czech and Slovak prime ministers pulled out of a regional summit in protest at Mr Orban's remarks. The Benes decrees also sanctioned the confiscation of property belonging to ethnic Hungarians living in Czechoslovakia.

Czech Mein Kampf publisher loses again in court

A publisher has lost another round in his two-year battle to legally sell a Czech-language version of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf." On Monday a Prague city court upheld two lower court rulings against Michal Zitko, whose publishing company released the book in January 2000. The criminal case against him centres around the fact that the new edition does not contain an additional explanatory text: other publishers have printed Czech versions of "Mein Kampf" with notes condemning Nazism. Mr Zitko was found guilty of promoting a movement that suppresses human rights, and was given a suspended sentence of three years.

Temelin shut down for month in final testing phase

The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia has been shut down for a month as part of its final testing phase. A Temelin spokesman said technicians had started a scheduled cool-down at the plant and stopped supplying electricity to the national grid Sunday night. Over the next month technicians will continue tests and install new equipment at the plant's reactor No 1, which has suffered turbine problems since its launch in autumn 2000. Efforts also are under way to prepare the No 2 reactor for launch later this year. The plant is heavily opposed by people in neighbouring Germany and Austria.

U.S. to help fund Czech environmental clean-up

And the Czech Republic is to receive nearly 1 million dollars in U.S. government aid for environmental projects including clean-ups of several chemical plants. The largest of the grants, awarded by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, will be used to launch a clean-up operation at the Synthesia chemical complex in the eastern town of Pardubice. The state privatisation bureau described the plant as "one of the most serious cases of contamination in the Czech Republic."

National Gallery director: "I am not a racist"

The director of Prague's National Gallery, Milan Knizak, has refused to back down after controversial comments about artwork created by members of the country's Roma minority. Mr Knizak caused controversy recently by saying that work by Roma artists was not good enough to appear in the gallery. He said the Roma had no tradition of creative art, adding that such works belonged in an ethnographic museum. A number of Roma and Jewish organisations are calling for Mr Knizak's immediate removal as head of the gallery. Mr Knizak, whose own artwork has caused controversy in the past, has denied accusations of racism.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather. After a mild night, Wednesday will be mostly cloudy with rain in places and snow in mountain areas. Temperatures in the daytime will range from six to twelve degrees Celsius.