News of Radio Prague

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Government approves senate draft bill on referendum

The Czech government has approved a senate draft bill that will allow Czechs to vote in a referendum next year to decide on the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union. The Czech Republic is the only EU candidate country still without a referendum law. The bill must now be debated in the lower house; a failure to pass it in parliament would leave the decision of EU accession up to parliament alone. Should the bill pass the Czech Republic will hold a referendum within a three month period following the signing of the accession treaty in the first half of 2003.

European Parliament's foreign affairs committee to reopen question of Benes Decrees

The European Parliament's foreign affairs committee will reopen the debate on the historic Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War. The committee will return to the question of the decrees' compatibility with current EU legislation in the first week of October, and will appraise the findings of independent analysts who researched the issue over the summer months. In the past the Czech Republic's controversial Benes Decrees have been a highly politicised issue by right-of centre and far-right parties in both Germany and Austria.

Spolana chemical plant to resume full operation in November

The Spolana chemical plant in Neratovice near Prague has announced plans to bring its operations fully back to normal by mid-November, three months after devastating floods first hit the factory. The flooding lead to chemical spills of chlorine, dioxins, and mercury in the surrounding area. Before the plant can resume full operations it will still be necessary to renew electricity and heating throughout much of the factory. An independent investigation is currently underway to help prepare new safety and communications measures at the chemical plant.

Police charge club manager with drug trafficking

Czech police have charged the manager of a night-club in Ostrava's Stodolni street with drug trafficking, saying he dealt in marijuana and hard drugs and sold narcotics directly on the premises and on the street. The man's wife is the owner of the club. Police say additional suspects may be charged in connection with the case in the coming days. If found guilty the accused, who is thirty-three-years-old, faces up to 10 years in prison. Stodolni street and its vicinity in the town of Ostrava, in the eastern part of the country, boasts about six dozen clubs, bars and restaurants; it is estimated that about 12,000 locals gather there at the weekends, making the area lucrative for illegal drugs trafficking.

Acetylene container catches fire at chemical factory near Most

A canister containing acetylene, used for welding, caught fire Wednesday at a chemical factory in Litvinov, near the town of Most, in the north of the country. No one was injured in the accident. Fire-fighters used a remote-controlled robot to remove the container to a safer location. Fire-fighters must now decide whether to let the fire burn out on its own, or whether to call in pyrotechnic experts.

Van collides with train: one person killed

Wednesday morning a van collided with a train at a crossing near the village of Chodoun in the Kladno region near Prague. One of the passengers in the van was killed instantly, another was hospitalised with serious injuries. Fire-fighters were on hand to assist with the evacuation of passengers from the damaged train.

Court strikes down appeal by double-murderer

A Czech court has struck down an appeal and reconfirmed a guilty verdict from last year sentencing a sixty-year-old man to 13 years in prison for the murder of his neighbours in a property dispute. Sixty-year-old Karel Porcal shot and killed his eighty-year-old neighbour Maria Hujer, as well as her fifty-four-year-old son. Investigations revealed Porcal tried to kill Mrs Hujer's husband as well, but ran out of ammunition.

Weather

Friday will be cloudy with occasional showers, daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius.