Iraq has asked for the Czech military police contingent stationed in Basra
to extend its stay in the country. Visiting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani
made the request during talks with the Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek
on Tuesday. The Iraqi president said that Czech military police
instructors had an excellent reputation in his country and Iraq would
appreciate if the training could continue for another year. The Czech
Parliament is expected to vote on extending the contingent's mission.
President Talabani began an official tour of Europe on Monday with the Czech Republic as his first port of call. At a state dinner given in his honour at Prague Castle he and President Vaclav Klaus discussed the situation in Irak and the Czech role in ongoing reconstruction efforts. The Czech Republic has earmarked 1.9 billion crowns or 78 million dollars on the reconstruction of Iraq. Part of the money was spent on humanitarian aid, the operation of a Czech field hospital in Basra and a training programme for Iraqi police officers.
The Czech Republic has recorded the highest budget surplus in its modern history. The Finance Ministry reported a budget surplus of 25.8 billion crowns / 873 million euros/ in the first nine months of this year, the best result since the country's independence in 1993. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the performance was a result of the government's careful spending and increased tax receipts, notably because of a crackdown on the grey market.
A last minute attempt by Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek to avert a one day strike by general practitioners scheduled for Thursday appears to have failed. Private physicians have called the strike in protest of the poor payment morale of some insurance companies, which they claim to be so bad it is threatening their livelihood. The prime minister met with a delegation of physicians on Monday night to try and find a way of resolving the sectors financing problems but he said he would not be pressured into sacking the health minister Milada Emmerova whom many doctors blame for the crisis.
The Dutch retail giant Ahold has said it had completed the acquisition of 67 Julius Meinl stores in the Czech Republic. It did not specify the amount paid for them. The company announced the acquisition plan in August of this year and obtained approval from the Czech anti-monopoly office in September.
The president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, began his official tour of Europe on Monday, with the Czech Republic as his first port of call. He met with Czech Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle and was to attend a state dinner in his honour Monday evening, following a series of ministerial-level meetings. The Czech Republic has a contingent of some 100 military police and instructors in Iraq, as well as a mobile field hospital and specialised anti-chemical warfare troops. The Iraqi President was to discuss the possibility of Czech instructors providing training to the Iraqi army, and the Czech role in ongoing reconstruction efforts.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has been included on a list of 100 names from which readers of the British magazine 'Prospect' and the US magazine 'Foreign Policy' have been asked to choose the world's top five intellectuals. The readers' opinion poll closes October 10 and results will be declared in November. The American linguist and dissident Naom Chomsky is an early favourite to head the list of the top five, with more than 14,000 votes already cast.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor has said it is ready to exit the Czech and Slovak telecoms markets and has already started talks to with interested parties for its Nextra and Telenor units in the two countries. Nextra offers Internet access and communications services, and Telenor provides DSL services. All companies are to be sold at once. Reported to be among interested parties is the British giant Vodafone, which bought the Czech mobile operator Oskar this spring.
The Finance Ministry said on Monday that the Czech state budget for September has shown a surplus of a record 25.8 billion crowns (over 1 billion dollars- the best result through the month of September since 1993. It marks a year-on-year improvement of some 66 billion crowns. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the result can be attributed to more efficient tax collection and other measures to reduce the 'grey' economy.
In business news, the national carrier Czech Airlines (CSA) sustained a loss of 464 million crowns in the first half of this year, not the planned profit of 177 million crowns, Czech public television reported. The results were based on documents discussed by the carrier's supervisory board, as Czech Airlines has not published the results. CEO Jaroslav Tvrdik blamed jumps in the price of fuel for the losses.
The Senate will convene a public hearing about proposed changes to the labour law on Tuesday. A major point of contention relates to severance pay. Workers unions want to keep in place a provision requiring an employer to give three months notice and pay two months' severance pay. Employers' associations say the requirement is too costly and leads to an inflexible workforce.
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