The Czech Commission for the privatisation of fixed-line operator Czech telecom has "okayed" the entry of France Telecom into the government tender. Several firms are now vying to bid for the state's 51 percent majority share including the firms Blackstone, CVC, and Providence. At the same time the commission acknowledged withdrawal by the consortium of PPF, J&T, InWay and Tiscali, which had bid an estimated 71.3 billion crowns, or approximately 3 billion U.S. dollars. The withdrawal is otherwise not expected to have a wider negative impact on the tender - given the entry of France Telecom.
An agreement by the country's ruling coalition parties to try and diffuse an on-going government crisis has been criticised by president Vaclav Klaus, who says the agreement reached does not go far enough. Mr Klaus had called for greater guarantees by the government to ensure stability for the rest of its term, but called its current steps "half-hearted", only postponing the problem. In the president's view the coalition will remain on the brink of breaking up for several weeks. The government crisis erupted last month when a major Czech daily questioned the financing behind Prime Minister Stanislav Gross' luxury flat. Business dealings by the prime minister's wife have also come under scrutiny.
The head of the Prague AIDS Centre Marie Stankova has said that the treatment of AIDS patients has been put under threat following budget cuts by the Health Minister. Mrs Stankova was reacting to a statement deleted from health ministry regulations that had previously allowed centres to cross budget "ceilings". Mrs Stankova says that centre officials had repeatedly discussed the problem with the Health Ministry. She says that unless some compromise can be reached, centres will have to consider limiting treatment with new effective but costly medication. Of 730 HIV-positive patients registered in the Czech Republic, 350 are undergoing treatment.
The Czech Republic will sponsor an assessment study of the extent of damage caused by fire in the Chilean national park Torres del Paine, the Chilean press wrote on Thursday. The fire was caused last month when a Czech tourist's stove overturned, causing wildfire to spread rapidly through 16,000 hectares of forest. An official Czech delegation has expressed deep regret for what happened and is now holding talks with the Chilean side.
A 32-year-old miner from the east Moravian region of Ostrava is in stable condition following an accident Thursday that killer his 24-year-old colleague. A hospital spokeswoman said the man had suffered no broken bones and no internal organ damage. He was injured and his colleague killed when the mine's conveyor equipment broke down. The exact cause of his colleague's death remains unknown.
The largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, will apparently hold-off calling a vote of no-confidence on the government at least until Easter. According to members within the Civic Democrats, the opposition party is waiting to see how the current government crisis is resolved - including whether the prime minister receives backing from his party at the Social Democrat's party congress in three weeks' time.
A Prague court has ruled that Bambini di Praga choirmaster Bohumil Kulinsky, awaiting trial for the alleged sexual abuse of underage girls, will remain in custody. On Friday the court rejected a complaint by Mr Kulinsky that he had been held longer than the three months allowed under the "collusion custody" law. The district court agreed with the prosecution that there was danger the accused might influence witnesses - and extended the three-month deadline.
The Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said the costs of the Czech economic transformation between the year 1990 and 2004 exceeded 600 billion crowns (26 billion dollars), with most of the money going to bank and company revitalisation. Further dozens of billions of crowns were paid in support to municipalities and regions, Mr Sobotka said.
Czech arms manufacturer Arms Moravia appears to have exported arms to Congo, despite an international embargo, Thursday's edition of Hospodarske noviny reported. It says another company, Ceska zbrojovka Uhersky Brod attempted to illegally export over five thousand sub-machine guns to the country in the year 2000. The paper says former foreign minister Jan Kavan okayed the latter deal, despite having been made aware of the embargo.