Press Review

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Today we have a wide variety of headlines but the one story that dominates all of Wednesday's papers is the two-day conference of NATO foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland where the alliance has decided to create a new NATO- Russian council. Mlada fronta Dnes has a picture of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell giving his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, a friendly hug.

Today we have a wide variety of headlines but the one story that dominates all of Wednesday's papers is the two-day conference of NATO foreign ministers in Reykjavik, Iceland where the alliance has decided to create a new NATO- Russian council. Mlada fronta Dnes has a picture of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell giving his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, a friendly hug.

Lidove noviny's front page features a photograph of the British and U.S. foreign ministers, Jack Straw, and Colin Powell, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Hospodarske noviny on the other hand prefers to outline what the council's work will entail and how much of an influence Russia will have in it.

But turning to domestic stories and a medicine-related headline in Mlada fronta Dnes that reads " Vrchlabi secretly begins devitalisation ". The paper reports that ten cancer patients have agreed to undergo treatment which has been given the green light by neither the Czech Medical Chamber nor by the Health Ministry.

Devitalisation involves cutting off the blood supply to malignant tumours, causing them to die off, instead of the conventional practice of surgically removing them. The director of the hospital in the east Bohemian town of Vrchlabi, where the treatment is being offered, admits that all of his subordinates have refused to take part in the experiment. He does not, however, supply information on when and by whom the operations will be carried out.

A Patients' Association representative tells the daily that several people have already undergone this treatment at another unnamed hospital. Whilst the Czech Medical Chamber has said that it would go to the police if the Vrchlabi plan were to go ahead, the Health Ministry stated that it would not take steps to intervene.

Lidove noviny writes that staff at Czech Television are planning to stage a protest on Thursday against the station's general director, Jiri Balvin. Mr Balvin is under police investigation on suspicion of illegally awarding contracts and mismanagement. Karel Dub from the television trade unions tells the paper that the accusations are too serious for Mr Balvin to act as if nothing was wrong. The station's staff will be avidly awaiting the outcome of a Czech TV Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Turning to politics and the upcoming elections, Pravo points to an unusual development in pre-election opinion polls. In an article on its front page, the paper says that, for the first time, the results of two polling agencies are similar, with the governing Social Democrats predicted to win the elections in both. A mere three weeks ago, the Civic Democrats enjoyed a six percent lead in opinion polls ahead of the Social Democrats.

At the end of last week, however, the Social Democrats led with two percent more than their closest rivals. The paper attributes this success to the former's election campaign, which it labels as a peaceful, non-aggressive campaign that stays away from conflict and does not try to slam its opponents.

Several of today's dailies report that the court of appeal in Prague has called for the case of Helena Cermakova, who is serving three years in prison for criminal negligence, to be re-opened. In March, a court in Kladno near Prague found Mrs Cermakova guilty of smothering her 5-year old daughter when she fell asleep on her in a state of inebriation. However, doubts about the evidence provided during the trial have resulted in the decision to grant her another hearing and re-consult the medical experts involved, the papers write.