News of Radio Prague

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Spidla: no coalition with Civic Democrats

With less than a week to go until the general elections, the leader of the ruling Social Democrats has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. Vladimir Spidla, appearing on a TV discussion programme with the Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus, said there were large differences between the two parties on major policy issues such as pension reform, taxation, and EU membership. Mr Spidla said he preferred a coalition with the right-of-centre opposition Coalition grouping, but raised the prospect of another minority government should such a coalition prove impossible. The Social Democrats are now slightly ahead of the Civic Democrats in the opinion polls, but neither party is expected to win an outright majority.

Verheugen: Irish "no" will delay EU enlargement

The European Union's commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen has warned that a second rejection of the EU's Nice Treaty in an Irish referendum later this year would lead to a delay in the bloc's plans to expand to the east. Mr Verheugen told reporters a second "no" vote would cause extremely serious problems for which he had no solutions. He said the EU had no "plan B" should ratification fail. Up to 10 countries - including the Czech Republic - are hoping to join the EU in 2004. The Nice Treaty implements reforms the EU says are needed in order to admit more states. Last June's referendum in Ireland - the only EU member to require a referendum on the issue - rejected the treaty, amid fears of a threat to Ireland's neutrality and concern that smaller states would lose out.

Police arrest 17 people in raid on people-smuggling gang

Police have arrested 17 people accused of smuggling illegal immigrants into Austria and Germany. Three of the seventeen were foreigners. A police spokeswoman said the group, which is believed to have smuggled around 700 people across the Czech border, was part of a larger international organisation.

Petrol pump attendant shot dead in robbery

A petrol pump attendant was shot dead during a robbery on a petrol station near the northern town of Ceska Lipa on Saturday. The 52-year-old man was discovered lying dead by a motorist. Police have appealed to the public to come forward if they have any information about the robbery.

2,000 march through Prague to raise breast cancer awareness

Around 2,000 people marched through the centre of Prague on Saturday to raise awareness of breast cancer. The march, which was attended mostly by young women, culminated in an outdoor pop concert on the city's Petrin hill. Some 4,500 women contract breast cancer in the Czech Republic each year, and around a third die of the disease. Organisers said the aim of today's march was to remind women that under a new law, all women over the age of 45 can be tested for breast cancer free of charge.

Gallery keeps artwork at home to prevent confiscation in Paris

Prague's National Gallery is refusing to let a priceless art collection travel to an exhibition of Czech culture in Paris, fearing possible confiscation by the French authorities. Gallery officials claim the Vincenc Kramar Collection, which includes 17 Picasso paintings, was donated to the Czech government shortly after Mr Kramar died in 1960. However the collector's descendants say they have the legal right to the art, and are trying to win it back in the courts. The gallery's lawyer said the collection should remain in Prague because the French government could not guarantee the artwork would not be seized in the on-going legal dispute.

Maritime aquarium to replace former Stalin monument?

An Australian company says it wants to build Central Europe's first maritime aquarium underneath the former Stalin monument on Prague's Letna hill. The project would relieve the city of the substantial costs of maintaining the monument, which overlooks the city across the River Vltava. A 50-metre high statue of Stalin was erected by the Communist regime in 1960, but was pulled down soon afterwards. A huge ticking metronome has stood in the statue's place since the early 1990s, but the underground chambers built into the granite podium have lain empty for years.

Weather

Finally a look at the weather. Monday will see more cool and damp weather throughout the country, with overcast skies, rain and thunderstorms in places. Temperatures in the daytime will range from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius, falling at night to lows of 8 degrees. And there's more cool and cloudy weather forecast for the rest of the week.