The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda is seeking to rally EU support for Denmark which faces mounting pressure from Moslem countries following the publication of cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad. Mr. Svoboda said that while he considers the caricatures in bad taste, the violent reaction to them is unacceptable. The Czech Foreign Minster would like to see the EU take a united stand in condemning the violence and he has suggested that the EU could provide some form of financial compensation to Denmark for the economic losses it has suffered in connection with the scandal.
Distributors have warned they will cut medicine supplies to three heavily indebted hospitals as of Wednesday. Two big hospitals in Prague - the Bulovka and Thomayer Teaching Hospital as well as one in south Moravia could soon face a serious crisis. Their current supplies are not expected to last longer than a week or two. The payment deadlines for other hospitals have been cut from the current 90 to 14 days. All three hospitals affected have said they will seek new distributors. Money problems have affected all spheres of the health sector where there is a serious backlog in payments.
The captain of the Czech hockey team at the Olympic Games in Turin is to be Robert Lang from the Detroit Red Wings. The national team's coach Alois Hadamczik said on Tuesday that Domink Hasek would be in the goalpost for the teams' first match against Germany on Wednesday, while Tomas Vokoun would take his place in the match against Switzerland. Only then will he decide on the lead goalie.
Meanwhile, the Czech charge d'affaires in Iran Michal Cerny who was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Sunday denies having apologized for a re-print of one of the satirical cartoons in the Czech press. The Czech official said he had merely received an official note of protest from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, but had not extended any apologies. The Iranian newsagency IRNA said on Monday the Czech charge d'affaires had apologized for the conduct of the Czech press. The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it sees no reason to apologize, citing freedom of the press in a democratic country.
Health minister David Rath will have to consult any further reform measures with a special government commission, according to the economics daily Hospodarske Noviny. The ministers radical cost-cutting measures have antagonized many health workers associations and the prime minister told the daily that he would like the health minister to get stronger backing from the Cabinet. The paper however indicates that the real reason for the setting up of this commission may be that the health minister is loosing credit with the ruling Social Democratic Party. Doctors, pharmacists and dentists have called a demonstration against the health minister's reforms in Prague on February 24th.
The Czech Muslim community has distanced itself from the violent protests taking place around the world against the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in western newspapers. The protests were among the topics discussed on Monday by Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan and representatives of Muslim organisations in the Czech Republic. The Czech Muslim community amounts to a few thousand, several hundred of those being Czech converts.
The Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek who is visiting North Africa, has met his Tunisian counterpart Mohamed Ghannouchi to discuss mutual trade, cultural exchange and the Czech experience of EU membership. Prime Minister Paroubek told reporters that areas potentially interesting for Czech companies are mainly the Tunisian infrastructure, the pharmaceutical industry and tourism. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Paroubek is scheduled to meet Moroccan officials.
As he marks a hundred days in office, Health Minister David Rath has told reporters he believes the time has been well-spent. Among his achievements Mr Rath listed the fact that the debt of the General Health Insurance Company (VZP) has been reduced, the flow of money in the health insurance system has improved and standards for the assessment of quality of health care have been introduced. On the other hand, Minister Rath has been repeatedly criticised by a number of professional associations over his policies.
The Agriculture Minister Jan Mladek has called the Central Infection Commission to meet on Tuesday in response to the growing number of cases of bird flu in Europe. The body should discuss possible measures of prevention of an outbreak of the infection. The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has recently been detected in birds in Italy, Greece, Slovenia and Bulgaria.
Fire fighters evacuated a primary school in east Bohemia on Monday morning after its roof had shifted under a weight of snow. The layer of snow was up to 2 metres thick. Also on Monday morning, fire fighters in north Moravia evacuated part of a warehouse after its roof buckled under a weight of snow. No one was hurt in either case. In the course of this winter a number of roofs have collapsed in the Czech Republic because of continuous heavy snowfall and insufficient maintenance.