The Czech government has agreed to extend the mission of its military police officers deployed in Iraq by two months. According to the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda the extended period - from January till the end of February - is related to security concerns over elections due to be held in Iraq at the start of the year. Washington has said it expects an increase of violence ahead of the elections. The Czech military police contingent is deployed near the town of Basra in southern Iraq where it has helped to train hundreds of Iraqi police officers since December of 2003.
The United States will consider ways of simplifying the procedure of visa applications for Czech citizens. US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said during talks in Prague on Wednesday that Washington was aware of the complications surrounding the process of visa applications for Czech citizens and would do its best to simplify matters as far as possible. He said that lifting visa regulations for Czech citizens was not on the agenda at present and that a certain degree of security would need to be maintained in view of the existing anti-terrorist measures. A US envoy is to visit Prague later this month to discuss the matter with Czech officials. Prague had been hoping for a reciprocal arrangement, since American citizens do not need visas to enter the Czech Republic.
The Czech government has approved a draft law on trade in greenhouse gasses. According to the proposed law electronic permits will be distributed among Czech companies at the beginning of every year. The companies will be free to trade in them but at the end of the year the number of permits returned must correspond to the amount of emissions exhausted. There is still some controversy between the environment and trade ministry over how many permits should be made available. The environment ministry is in favour of permits for 100 million tonnes of emissions, the trade ministry wants the figure to be 17 million tonnes higher. The European Commission should have the final word on the overall number of Czech permits.
Czech troops may work with a German military team to help prepare infrastructure and security in Northern Afghanistan for October's presidential election, German Defence Minister Peter Struck said on Wednesday. The Czech Republic is prepared to make 40 soldiers available in the near future. The German-run unit, based in the town of Faizabad, is the second so-called "provincial reconstruction" team. It is currently staffed by 30 German soldiers and is to include a total of 85 troops. Berlin has so far failed to bring other countries, notably the Netherlands, on board. In a related development, the Czech defence ministry said that 100 Czech soldiers, most of them special forces troops, serving in Afghanistan would be repatriated this month after ending a six months tour of duty.
Thursday is expected to be partly cloudy with some rain and day temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius.
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