News Tuesday, NOVEMBER 28th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

Six Czechs die of CJD in five years

The Czech news agency CTK claims that at least six Czechs have died in the past few years of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human variant of BSE.

Experts from Palacky University in Olomouc say another two cases were inconclusive. They say four of the victims were being treated at a psychiatric clinic of the Olomouc Hospital when they died.

The Czech Republic has issued a ban on imports of bone meal products from EU countries and from Switzerland. Veterinary authorities have also banned imports of beef, meat and bone meal products as well as live cattle from France and Portugal.

A ban on British beef has been in effect in the Czech Republic for several years.

Austria drops objections against Czech environmental chapter

Austria has confirmed that it has withdrawn its reservations to the environment chapter in the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union.

Austria's EU ambassador Michael Schwarzinger said his government was in a positive mood and wished the talks to continue.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said after talks in Vienna with her Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner that the environment chapter could be closed by the end of the year.

Austria has previously threatened to block the closing of this chapter because of its dispute with Prague over the Temelin nuclear power station near its border.

Czech ambassador to Bulgaria to be sacked

The Czech ambassador to Sofia is likely to lose his job over his controversial remarks about Bulgaria, which had triggered a storm of angry protest in that country.

The Czech foreign ministry has said the decision to recall Mr Ondrej Havlin comes in response to numerous protests by officials in Sofia. He said the cabinet would discuss Mr Havlin's fate next week.

Havlin's recent remarks at official occasions reportedly accused Bulgaria of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II. He said Bulgaria was unfit for membership of NATO and the EU.

Mr Havlin has also sent a statement to the Czech media advising his fellow countrymen against travelling to Bulgaria. The statement was released without prior consultation with the foreign ministry in Prague.

The Czech news agency CTK says the Czech Republic wants Havlin removed before the Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov's visit to Prague, planned for next month.

Havel ill, may have pneumonia

Czech President Vaclav Havel is ill with a viral infection and his spokesman says he is showing signs of pneumonia.

The president has not been taken to hospital and is taking antibiotics at the presidential chateau outside Prague.

Spokesman Ladislav Spacek said Mr Havel had cancelled his program for the week, with the exception of the appointment of a new head of the central bank. However, this was moved to Wednesday from Tuesday.

Havel was due to meet Austrian President Thomas Klestil on Tuesday, but this has been cancelled, as has been a visit to Paris on Wednesday to receive a cultural prize.

Czech weather report

On Tuesday, a warm front advancing eastward will bring cloudy weather into the Czech Republic, with patchy fogs and morning lows around freezing point. Later in the day, we expect scattered showers in most parts of the country and daytime temperatures between three and seven degrees Celsius.

On Wednesday, warmer air will be pouring into Central Europe from the southeast. The skies will be cloudy in the morning, with some rain in the eastern parts of the Czech Republic. Early morning lows between two and six Celsius, afternoon highs between seven and 11 degrees, but only about five above zero in places with persistent fogs.

Thursday will be a cloudy day, with early morning lows between one and five degrees above freezing, and daytime highs from six to 10 degrees Celsius.