The Czech cabinet has set up a special commission that will be responsible for the country's purchase of fighter jets. The commission is to assess the various bids made by selected countries. Transport Minister Milan Simonovsky told journalists on Wednesday that the members of the commission were chosen carefully to ensure that it was a strictly "technical" and not political committee. The Czech Army, and the ministries of defence, finance, foreign affairs, and trade and industry are represented. The government came under criticism on Monday, after it decided not to purchase the second-hand fighter jets through a public tender but rather by strategic order. On Wednesday, Turkey decided not to offer its jets, leaving Belgium, the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and France among the seven countries interested to present their offers by the end of the month.
The three-party ruling coalition has agreed to provide a total of two billion crowns (around 75 million US dollars) to the country's most indebted regional hospitals. Financing of regional hospitals was recently made the responsibility of the fourteen regional self-governing authorities, rather than the central administration in Prague. However many were transferred with huge debts that the regions say they can't afford to pay back.
President Vaclav Klaus arrived in Slovenia on Tuesday for a two-day visit to the country. Mr Klaus held talks with his Slovene counterpart Janez Drnovsek, discussing mutual co-operation after both countries join the European Union in May 2004 as well as future co-operation within NATO. President Klaus told reporters after the talks that he did not believe small countries in the EU should form alliances against larger EU members. Mr Klaus said he was willing to work with any country that would fight what he described as Brussels bureaucracy, centralism and the diminishing importance of nation-states.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has launched a three-day international conference on Tibet, taking place at a hotel in Prague. Representatives of pro-Tibetan democracy groups from across the world are attending the conference, which is being sponsored by a German foundation. It's the first time the gathering has been held in Prague. The Chinese embassy has issued a statement strongly criticising the conference and the decision to invite the Dalai Lama. Earlier on Sunday the Dalai Lama held private talks with former President Vaclav Havel. He is not expected to meet the current president, Vaclav Klaus.
Hundreds of people waited for hours outside a bookshop in Brno on Saturday to attend a book signing by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ms Albright, born Marie Korbelova in Prague, is in the Czech Republic to launch the Czech translation of her memoirs, entitled "Madam Secretary." Ms Albright, who speaks fluent Czech, will meet a number of senior officials during her visit including former president Vaclav Havel, who is a close personal friend. Her visit ends on Tuesday.
Police in Prague have taken away sections of railway track for investigation after they were damaged by explosives. A police spokeswoman said the explosives were placed on the track and detonated some time on Sunday morning. No-one was injured in the explosion. The railway line between Prague and Beroun was closed for several hours to allow the tracks to be inspected. Anonymous blackmailers have threatened to destroy railway tracks on a number of occasions in the last few months.
Another suspected case of BSE or mad cow disease has been reported in a herd near Prachatice, South Bohemia. If confirmed, it would be the Czech Republic's sixth case of the disease since 2001. The State Veterinary Authority said further tests were being carried out and the final result would be known by Wednesday, although the Authority said it was almost 100 percent certain that the animal was infected. Almost half a million cattle have been tested for BSE since the first case was confirmed two years ago.
Two Czechs were among 13 people sentenced to prison in the Antilles on Thursday for drugs smuggling. The two Czech citizens were sentenced to 30 months in prison by a court on the island of Sint Maarten, after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle 10 kilos of cocaine out of the country. The two had visited the Antilles - which are part of the Netherlands - as tourists. The remaining 11 people sentenced were Slovaks.
The Chinese embassy has issued a statement strongly criticising the decision to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Prague. The Dalai Lama arrived in Prague on Saturday afternoon to preside over a three-day international conference on Tibet which gets underway on Sunday. It is the first time that the gathering - sponsored by a German foundation - has been held in Prague. The embassy accused the conference - which is being held under the auspices of the Czech Senate - of supporting activities which damage Chinese national identity and hurt Czech-Chinese relations. Senator Jan Ruml, himself a former anti-Communist dissident, said the meeting was part of the democratic process and the criticism was unfounded.
Hundreds of people waited for hours outside a bookshop in Brno on Saturday to attend a book signing by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Ms Albright, born Marie Korbelova in Prague, is in the Czech Republic to launch the Czech translation of new book of memoirs, "Madam Secretary." Ms Albright, who speaks fluent Czech, will meet a number of senior officials during her visit including former president Vaclav Havel, who is a close personal friend. Her visit ends on Tuesday.