Czech Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, who has been under fire over his personal finances, has gained the support of the junior coalition Freedom Union. In recent weeks, Mr Gross has been grilled by the media and some parliamentary parties over how he had been able to afford to make a 2.5 million Czech crown (107,000 US dollars) down payment on a Prague flat in 1999. The prime minister has given various explanations and nothing to back his claims. Mr Gross has enjoyed full support of his own party, the Social Democrats, and was assured further support by Freedom Union leader Petr Nemec after a meeting on Thursday.
On Thursday afternoon, underwent further grilling in the lower house, in a 45 minute question and answer session called by the opposition centre-right Civic Democrats. Mr Gross also had to answer for his wife's business activities and stressed neither he nor his wife were ever involved in any illegal business. He added that he would raise the mortgage on his flat.
A forty-member military research unit is to be deployed to Afghanistan in March to join a German-run Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the northern region of Badakshan. The Czech Republic currently has only 15 soldiers in Afghanistan in the ISAF mission in Kabul. The NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team is a combination of international military and civilian personnel based in provincial areas of Afghanistan with the aim of extending the authority of the Afghan central government and helping to facilitate development and reconstruction.
The Czech Foreign Ministry plans to open an embassy in Moldova. The nearest embassy is currently in Romania and the Czech Republic hopes diplomatic representation in Moldova itself could help bring the country, which is currently led by a Communist government, closer to EU states. Moldova is one of eight countries in which the Czech Republic intends to open an embassy in the near future, despite being forced to close down others due to a lack of finances.
Meanwhile, Mr Gross gave all three ministers of the Christian Democratic Party - the third party in the ruling coalition - twenty-four hours to state whether they feel the government can no longer function and needs a new prime minister. Earlier this week, Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek voiced concern and said the scandal over the prime minister's personal finances has damaged the coalition's reputation. The ministers have rejected Mr Gross' ultimatum on Thursday and called for a meeting of the entire government leadership instead.
The country's dominant telecommunications company, Cesky Telecom, plans to expand to foreign markets, which would include capital entries in other companies, company CEO Gabriel Berdar said on Thursday. According to Mr Berdar, Cesky Telecom generated record-high consolidated revenue last year and can afford to ponder investment and possibly dividends owing to its low debt. In 2004, the company's consolidated revenue totalled 62.1 billion Czech crowns (2.5 billion US dollars), a year-on-year growth of 21 percent.
The three-party governing coalition is in crisis, after the Christian
Democrats called on the Social Democrats to replace Stanislav Gross as
prime minister. Christian Democrat leader Miroslav Kalousek said at a
special news conference on Wednesday such a move would allow the coalition
Earlier Mr Gross said the government - which has a majority of just one - could continue without the Christian Democrats. However, it is hard to see where a minority government could find support.
Stanislav Gross is due to hold individual talks with Mr Kalousek and Freedom Union leader Pavel Nemec on Thursday.
Mr Gross has been under fire for weeks over allegations his luxury Prague flat cost more than he had officially earned. His wife's financial dealings have also been criticised; on Wednesday the prime minister said she would cease her business activities while he was in office.
Czech model Petra Nemcova, who was seriously injured in the Asian tsunami disaster in December, says she may quit modelling. The 25-year-old broke her pelvis and suffered internal injuries before surviving the disaster by clinging to a palm tree for eight hours. Her boyfriend, a British photographer, is still listed as missing. Ms Nemcova told the Czech daily Blesk she would like to return to Asia to do aid work.
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