News of Radio Prague

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NATO warplanes fly pre-summit training missions over Czech territory

U.S. and Czech fighter jets have taken part in a joint training exercise over Czech territory as part of preparations for November's NATO summit in Prague. Thursday's exercise was designed to rehearse an aerial response to a possible terrorist attack during the summit. Czech officials said American F-16 fighters and Czech MiG-21 jets had participated in the exercise, which simulated the shooting down of a hijacked airliner and an attack on a nuclear power station. The summit, on November 21 and 22, will bring together heads of state and military leaders from 46 countries.

STEM: 85 percent want direct presidential vote, Motejl favourite

A new opinion poll released on Thursday shows a large majority in favour of electing a successor to President Vaclav Havel in a direct vote, as opposed to the current parliamentary system. The survey, carried out by the STEM agency, said 85 percent of respondents were in favour of electing the head of state directly. When asked who should succeed Mr Havel in February, most people said Otakar Motejl, the country's ombudsman. Mr Motejl, one of four candidates nominated by the ruling Social Democrats, was followed by Senate chairman Petr Pithart and Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus. The Civic Democrats recently launched an initiative to change the Constitution to allow a direct vote.

Czech lower house approves bill on EU membership referendum

The Czech Republic took a step towards letting its citizens decide on EU membership on Thursday, after the lower house of parliament approved a bill to hold a referendum in the second quarter of next year. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily because the upper house drafted the bill. The bill was approved by a strong majority, with 180 of the 182 deputies present in the 200-seat lower house voting in favour.

Court rejects appeal by racist killer

A court in the eastern city of Hradec Kralove has rejected an appeal by a far-right skinhead sentenced to 13 years in prison for the racist murder of a Romany man. The court rejected the appeal by 22-year-old Vlastimil Pechanec, who was found guilty of stabbing to death 30-year-old Ota Absolon in a discotheque in the town of Svitavy last year. Mr Absolon's invalid partner, the mother of his two children, died last week of cancer.

Four tram accidents within one hour in traffic-choked Prague

The Prague Transport Authority is investigating four separate tram accidents which occurred within the space of one hour on Thursday. Eleven people were slightly injured in the first accident, which happened at lunchtime at the busy I.P. Pavlova interchange when a bus collided with a tram. The other three accidents involved cars, and there were no injuries. Prague's transport system is under increased pressure at present, due to large parts of the metro being paralysed by the recent floods.

Thieves clean out chapel in South Moravian village

Police in South Moravia say thieves have completely cleaned out a chapel in the village of Boretice. The property stolen from Saint Anna's Church included the priest's vestments, ornate candleholders and several statues. The chapel's money boxes were also emptied. The losses in cash and property totalled about 5,700 dollars. Village churches in the country have been targeted by thieves for years because they are often easily accessible and contain a wealth of antique treasures.

Weather forecast

Friday will see the arrival of a band of cooler air from the west, bringing with it more cloudy weather with rain and showers in places. Temperatures in the daytime will range from seven to 11 degrees Celsius.