President Vaclav Klaus has signed a bill that introduces a road toll system for vehicles above 12 tonnes in 2007. The state currently makes around 1 billion crowns (around 42 million US dollars) off special coupons that drivers have to buy to use the country's motorways. The new system, which is to be provided by the Austrian company Kapsch, is estimated to bring in around 10,5 billion crowns a year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's official visit to Prague came to a close on Thursday. Mr Putin held talks with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus, Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, and the heads of both houses of Parliament. Oil and gas supplies, foreign investment, and Czech exports to Russia were among the topics discussed. Mr Putin also said Russia bears a "moral responsibility" for the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968. At final talks on Thursday, Prime Minister Paroubek deliberately avoided sensitive issues such as the war in Chechnya and democracy in Russia. He says bilateral relations are better than ever before.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has denied that his calls for US troops not to withdraw from neighbouring Iraq prematurely are out of fear from Iran. Turkish newspapers quoted Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda on Thursday as saying his Turkish counterpart confided in him last month that he feared the withdrawal of the US forces would boost Iran's influence.
The European Union has agreed to introduce a temporary sugar quota cut for the 2006/2007 season. Fearing a sugar surplus, the European Commission proposed to reduce the production quota by 2.5 million tonnes. In the Czech Republic, this will reduce production from close to 455,000 tonnes to 411,332 tonnes.
The Czech football team drew 2:2 in a friendly match with Turkey in Izmir on Wednesday night. Karel Poborsky and Jiri Stajner scored for the Czech Republic, who appeared to be heading for victory until the Turks scored two goals in the last four minutes. Earlier a team of Czech reserves had been beaten 3:1 by their Turkish counterparts.
Police say they have evidence that a fugitive Czech businessman tried to forge a promissory note issued by the country's ruling Social Democratic Party. Radovan Krejcir escaped to the Seychelles last summer after he was accused of tax evasion and conspiracy to murder. He says the police investigation was initiated by the Social Democratic Party, which owes him 60 million crowns (an estimated 2.5 million US dollars) that it borrowed four years ago to finance its election campaign. The Czech police are now in possession of a fax, which they say was sent by Mr Krejcir to commission someone to forge a promissory note. The document includes instructions on the note's graphic design, colour, and personal information on former Social Democrat leader Stanislav Gross.
Judges at Prague's Municipal Court have asked the Czech Justice Ministry to request the extradition of two Czech nationals, who are currently under investigation for drug smuggling in Turkey. The men have been in detention in Turkey since April 2004 when police at the Greek-Turkish border discovered 26 kilograms of a drug containing heroin in their car. Prague Municipal Court judges say the two men are innocent and were unaware that the drugs were in the car. Evidence presented at a separate trial is reported to prove their theory.
The Czech company Explosia, which produces the plastic explosive Semtex and owns the rights to the trademark, has said it launched legal action to prevent American pop-star Madonna from misusing its most valued and internationally-recognized asset. The pop singer was revealed to have registered a company in Britain called "Semtex Girls Limited". Production of Semtex began in the 1960s but only became widely known in the 1980s as a favourite tool for terrorists because it was virtually undetectable. Because of the threat of global terrorism, the company has added a substance to make it easily detectable and now makes only small amounts of Semtex for use by the army and a number of Czech companies.
Just hours ahead of President Putin's arrival, former Czech president Vaclav Havel and several world-renowned statesmen launched an attack on Mr Putin and his policies in a text published in a Czech newspaper. The group, led by Mr Havel and including former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, sharply accused Mr Putin of "censorship" of information from Chechnya and called for the world to stop "closing its eyes" to atrocities taking place in Chechnya.
A poll carried out by the CVVM agency suggests that 23 percent of Czechs would vote for the ruling Social Democrats if elections were held tomorrow, 4 percent less than last month. On the other hand, support for the Green party has increased to 6 percent compared to 2.5 percent in January. The opposition Civic Democrats lead the poll with 28.5 percent of public support. The Communists would get some 11.5 percent and the Christian Democrats are supported by 7.5 percent of voters, according to the poll.
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