The government coalition has agreed on the final version of the draft policy statement, Prime Minister and Social Democrat chairman Stanislav Gross told reporters on Thursday, following five hours of talks with the other party leaders in government. The agenda calls for more fiscal restraint than did earlier drafts, with calls to offset new government spending with cuts in other areas. Planned steps to be taken in this regard include tightening the conditions for receiving welfare and trimming the wages of state employees. In an effort to fight corruption, public officials would also be required to make public their assets and monitored cash registers with electronic memory would be introduced.
The embattled Head of the Government Office, Pavel Pribyl, has apologised for not having been "on the right side of the barricade" during the anti-communist demonstrations of January 1989 and acknowledged that he was at that time a commander of a police anti-riot unit. But in a statement published in the Pravo newspaper on Thursday, Mr Pribyl said that neither he nor any of the police under his command beat demonstrators. "I was a 25-year old kid who received a task. I had to perform professionally, but at the same time I tried my utmost to do so as humanly as possible," Mr Pribyl writes. A group of some 100 people, including prominent artists and former dissidents, have signed a petition calling for Mr Pribyl's resignation; the group also staged a protest rally outside the Cabinet headquarters on Tuesday.
The High Court in Prague on Thursday sentenced Chinese gang leader Chao Tun-Kuo to five and a half years in prison for his role in masterminding the January 2002 kidnapping of the daughter of a locally based Chinese restaurateur. The gang had demanded $200,000 in ransom and had held the woman against her will for over a month. Chao Tun-Kuo is also suspected of ordering the double murder of a Chinese couple in Romania.
Two teams of Czech canoeists are through to the semi-finals of the men's C2 doubles event at the Olympic Games. Jaroslav Volf and Ondrej Stepanek finished 13.31 seconds off the pace of the of the Slovakian leaders, placing third, while the team of Marek Jiras and Tomas Mader finished 27.95 seconds off, placing ninth. Czech canoeist Ondrej Raab finished in ninth place in the men's solo K-1 qualification race.
In a friendly game in Prague on Wednesday evening the Czech Republic's footballers drew 0:0 with Greece, the team who knocked them out in the semi-finals at the European Championships in Portugal. Karel Poborsky, who captained the team in the absence of the injured Pavel Nedved, became the first Czech player to win 100 international caps and left the field to resounding applause.
Temperatures are expected to drop on Friday, with highs of around 23 degrees Celsius, but the heavy cloud cover will remain and scattered showers are likely throughout the country.
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