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Foreign Ministry advises Czech nationals to leave Iraq

The Czech Foreign Ministry has advised Czech nationals in Iraq to leave the country without delay. The ministry said that in view of the escalating violence it was no longer safe for them to remain and it might be even more difficult to leave the country at a later date. The ministry has also issued a travel warning to tourists not to enter the country.

Special team set up to fight tax evasion ready for action

A special team established to fight tax evasion should be up and running by June 15th, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Friday. The team will be made up of close to one hundred people from the ranks of the police, tax and customs authorities and the finance ministry. The tax-evasion squad has been set up along the lines of Slovakia’s Cobra tax inspection team which uncovered tax fraud amounting to 94.2 million euros last year alone. The Czech Republic loses approximately 150 billion crowns a year through tax evasion.

Military training may become compulsory again

The Czech Defence Ministry is drafting a new national defence bill under which the state may be able to order military recruitment even in peacetime, the daily Hospodarské noviny writes in its Friday edition. The Czech military now has roughly 20,000 professional soldiers, but in the event of a military threat, it might need tens of thousands of re-enforcements. Compulsory military service was abolished in 2004, meaning that the last conscripts underwent military training 10 years ago which the army says it too long for them to be sent straight into action. The government is scheduled to debate the bill in the autumn.

Saudi Arabia angered by Czech president’s anti-Muslim statements

The Czech ambassador to Riyad, Jiří Slavík, was summoned to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Sunday to hear a complaint about President Miloš Zeman's anti-Muslim statements, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Friday. According to the paper the ambassador heard a resolute complaint about a number of the president’s statements the most recent of which pertained to the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Speaking at an Israeli reception President Zeman noted that Islamic ideology was behind such violent attacks. The Czech Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over what it described as heightened tension in Czech-Saudi relations. Foreign Minister Zaorálek said he had invited Arab ambassadors to the Czech Foreign Ministry next week and would discuss the matter with them.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka reacted to the news on Friday saying that the president’s statements should not be blown out of proportion and that he had no indication that Saudi Arabia was considering economic sanctions against the Czech Republic over the issue.

Communist Party calls for faster separation of churches from the State

The Communist Party is calling for a faster separation of churches from the State, the ctk news agency reports. The party is unhappy with the scope of the church restitution, which it considers excessive, and says this could be one way of easing the burden on public finances. The restitution law envisages a gradual reduction of state support for churches leading up to a complete separation in 17 years’ time, when churches should become fully financially independent.

Mayor: Prague to take over running of Opencard from current operator

Prague plans to take over operation of the Opencard electronic card system from the middle of this month, Mayor Tomáš Hudeček told the Czech News Agency. City Hall has been locked in a dispute with the company eMoneyServices over the figures quoted by the latter for extending a service contract for the Opencard, which is used for public transport and other services. Mr. Hudeček said Prague would begin operating the Opencard itself once its current contracts end with eMoneyServices; it holds the copyright on the system but could not be contacted by the Czech News Agency on Thursday. The Opencard cost CZK 1.35 billion to implement and has been mired in controversy.

Czech president to attend freedom celebrations in Budapest

Czech President Miloš Zeman is to join central and east European leaders in Budapest on Monday for Hungary’s celebrations of the fall of communism 25 years ago. The celebrations in Budapest have been planned to coincide with the 31st anniversary of the funeral of the leader of the 1956 uprising Imre Nagy who was executed following the crushing of the rebellion by Soviet forces. The Budapest celebrations are the second in a series of events marking the freedom anniversary around Europe. Other venues where celebrations are due to be held are the German city of Leipzig, Prague and Bratislava.

Lobbyist Martin Dědic released on bail

Lobbyist Martin Dědic who faces corruption charges has been released on bail. According to the state attorney the bail was set at 4 million crowns. Dědic is suspected of accepting bribes, money laundering and involvement in manipulation of public tenders at a hospital and transport company in Ostrava. If convicted he would face up to 12 years in jail. Eight other people have been charged in connection with the case.

Elkán named CEO of Czech Post

Martin Elkán has been named CEO of Czech Post, the ctk news agency reports. Elkán, who headed Czech Post’s marketing division, is expected to lead the institution out of a crisis precipitated by a drop in demand for its traditional services. Czech Post will need to consolidate its finances and expand into new areas, but at the same time meet political demand for it to maintain highly unprofitable small outlets around the country. It currently employs 32,000 people.

News site: Number of injuries on Prague Metro escalators climbing

The number of injuries to passengers riding escalators at Prague Metro stations has risen in recent years, the news website iDnes.cz reported. It said escalators at some stations were running excessively quickly. The number of injuries was 441 last year, compared to 368 in 2009. However, injuries to children’s hands and feet have declined after brushes were installed alongside steps in some stations. Most injuries last year were caused by passengers colliding on escalators. Those in a number of stations, such as Náměstí Míru, run faster than permitted under EU norms, iDnes.cz said.