The former prime minister and ex-chairman of the ruling Social Democrats Milos Zeman has ruled out the possibility of running in the 2008 presidential elections. Mr. Zeman who has interrupted his quiet life as a pensioner in the Moravian highlands in order to support his party before the June general elections said on Sunday that he had no intention of returning to top-level politics. He is planning to tour two election regions to support the current Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Zdenek Skromach whom he described as the party's most worthy candidates. Mr. Zeman has just published a book of memoirs which many observers believe will hinder rather than help his party in the elections.
The leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party Mirek Topolanek has promised to increase old age pensions if his party wins the June general elections. Mr. Topolanek, whose party currently leads in opinion polls, said that during the rule of the Social Democrats old age pensions had actually dropped when compared to the average wage, which was something that his party was prepared to correct. The Civic Democratic Party leader said that while in 1997 old age pensions amounted to 46 percent of the average wage, they were now down to 40 percent.
The Association of Pharmacists has announced that its members would refrain from further protest actions until they have discussed their grievances with the Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek. They say they no longer want to deal with Health Minister David Rath who lowered their profit margins at the start of this year as part of a package of cost-cutting measures across the health sector. The Association of Pharmacists has protested against the measure for weeks saying that it would lead many of them into bankruptcy.
Prague's Ruzyne airport was closed to all incoming and outgoing traffic for most of the day on Sunday due to heavy snowfall. It re-opened for limited service after 3pm CET. Some 25 centimetres /10 inches/ of snow blanketed the country in the early hours of Sunday causing traffic snarls and train delays. Continuing snowfall throughout the day complicated road maintenance work. The main east-west motorway, the D1, was restricted to one lane in each direction and some parts of the country were completely cut off. More snow has been forecast in the coming days.
The ultra-right National Party staged a demonstration outside the Office of the Sudeten German Association in Prague, which defends the interests of Germans expelled from the Sudetenlands at the end of WWII. About thirty members of the National Party unfurled banners reading "No Sudeten Germans in Prague" and "Send German waste back to Germany", the latter in reference to illegal imports of German waste to the neighbouring Czech Republic. The head of the party Petra Edelmannova slammed Czech politicians for allegedly failing to defend Czech national interests. The demonstration was to mark the 67th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.
A 31-year-old Czech woman, Jana Tylova, became the top sudoku player in the world Saturday after winning the first world championships for the numbers-based game in Italy. Tylova, an economist from the city of Most, beat two citizens of the United States to triumph in the final after a two-day competition involving 85 players from 22 countries
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus outlined his vision of a future European Union to university students in Trento, northern Italy, where he received an honorary doctors' decree on Saturday. In his lecture, Mr. Klaus said the European Union had integrated more than was necessary or rational. He criticized what he called supranational decision-making in Brussels and recommended that the EU be redefined in line with the original idea of a free trade, open market region of strong, independent states.
A Czech airliner bound for New York was forced to turn back to Prague thirty minutes after take-off due to a technical problem on Saturday. A spokesman for CSA, the Czech national carrier, said a problem with the plane's computer system had necessitated the turn-back. The faulty component was replaced and the plane took off with a four hour delay.
According to the Justice ministry, Czech businessman Dalibor Kopp, suspected of illegally exporting weapons to several countries including Iraq, will be extradited to the Czech Republic from Belgium. Mr Kopp, who is 43, was arrested in Brussels in January after a tip off from Prague. He had been wanted on an international arrest warrant since 2004. Mr Kopp and an accomplice have been charged with illegal trade in military materials and illegal arms possession. A search of Mr Kopp's company premises in the Czech Republic revealed an illegal production line for ammunition. Czech police said in January in a statement that if found guilty the suspect could face up to ten years in prison.
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