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Foreign ministers say tough approach to Gaddifi regime needed

The Czech Republic and Georgia have said a tough stance needs to be taken regarding Libya’s authoritarian regime. On Friday, the foreign ministers Karel Schwarzenberg and Grigol Vashadze made statements after meeting in Prague. Mr Schwarzenberg called violent action by the regime unacceptable. The escalating conflict in Libya has claimed hundreds of lives so far, after Mr Gaddafi's regime opted for a brutal clampdown. Witnesses in Tripoli have said the city is living in fear.

The Czech Republic will back the EU’s stance if sanctions are imposed on Libya, Mr Schwarzenberg said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told EU defence ministers on Friday that restrictive measures against Libya were being considered. The UN Security Council is also to discuss the proposal that an arms embargo and financial sanctions be imposed on Libya and that the international criminal court charge leading government representatives of committing crimes against humanity. Besides growing concerns over Libya, Mr Schwarzenberg and Mr Vashadze on Friday discussed the candidacy of their countries to the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Vashadze also stressed that Georgia appreciated Czech support towards the country regarding the EU and NATO defence structures.

Consul: Twenty-two Czechs remain in Libya, five to depart

In related news, the Czech consul in Tripoli, Jiří Hušner, has said 22 Czech nationals remain in Libya, despite increasing violence and unrest there. Speaking on a line from the Libyan capital, Mr Hušner said another five Czech citizens would fly back to Prague on Friday. Some of those remaining, he confirmed however, had expressed an interest in being evacuated from the country. News organisations on Friday reported a major government crackdown in which thousands were said to have been injured or killed. Fighting for the past week in Libya has raged between troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and anti-government forces.

Ministers agree remaining details in planned pension reform, VAT

Ministers in the Czech government agreed on remaining details in the government’s planned pension reform on Friday, including raising the VAT (value-added tax) now at 10 percent on some products and 19 on others, to a uniform 20 percent. The move is to be taken as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Petr Nečas indicated the change could come into effect by the Q4 this year – far earlier than the previous deadline of 2013. The prime minister stressed that the revenue from the change in the VAT will be used to fund shortfalls in the state-run part of the pension system, in which some age groups will now be allowed to opt out of part of their social security payments, directing a percentage into private pension funds instead.

Officers, sentenced to death on trumped-up charges, honoured

A special ceremony was held in Prague 6 on Friday honouring Czechoslovak officers who were sentenced to death after 1948 by the former Communist regime. February 25 marks the 63 anniversary of the putsch that saw the Communists come to power in Czechoslovakia, which they held until 1989. In a speech, the head of the general staff, General Vlastimil Picek recalled the events of 1948 saying that few had anticipated the rise of a second totalitarian regime following the Nazi occupation. After the Communists assumed power in February 1948, more than half of Czechoslovakia’s officers were thrown out of the service, often forced into poorly-paid jobs. In the worst cases, officers were imprisoned to hard labour or were tried on trumped-up charges and murdered by the regime.

Czech-Slovak group Penta sells Polish retail chain Žabka

The Czech-Slovak investment group Penta Investments has reported selling the Polish convenience store chain Žabka Polska to the Mid Europa Partners fund. A Penta representative said in total 2,400 convenience stores and 55 Freshmarket stores had been sold. He confirmed that the price had been around 10 billion crowns (the equivalent of roughly 563 million US dollars) but declined to give the exact value, citing a deal with the buyer. In 2010, Žabka's sales turnover totalled 2.5 billion zloty (869 million dollars).

Founded in 2005, new owner Mid Europa Partners is a private equity investment company focusing on Central and Eastern Europe, with offices in London, Budapest and Warsaw. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is to be closed in three or four months. Penta bought Žabka in 2007 for 3.7 billion crowns and expanded its network by more than 400 new shops in Poland and the Czech Republic. It sold the 128 Czech Žabka stores to Tesco last December.

Police break-up theft, drugs gang in South Bohemia

Police officers in Tábor, South Bohemia this week announced they had uncovered a drugs and theft gang responsible for some 1.2 million crowns in damages. Nine people are believed to have been involved: one person is being held in custody, with police filing additional requests with the state attorney’s office for five suspects. The police investigation is ongoing and officials said additional suspects could still be charged.

Fifty-one-year-old dies in hit & run

A 51-year-old pedestrian was killed in Přerov on Thursday evening after suffering a hit & run. The incident took place shortly before 10 pm near a local supermarket. The driver of the vehicle involved did not stop to try and help the victim but drove out of town. Police are searching for the driver of a white vehicle which is believed to have suffered a broken headlight on the driver’s side. If caught and found guilty of the hit & run, the person responsible will face up to six years in prison.

Sparta knocked out of Europa League

Czech football club Sparta Prague failed to proceed to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday night after they were beaten by Liverpool 0:1. The home team scored in the 85th minute of what had been an even, end-to-end match. The first leg of the two-leg tie in Prague was goalless. Sparta was the last Czech club in top European competition.

Navrátil fills in Davis Cup gaps

Czech Davis Cup captain Jaroslav Navrátil has named Jan Hernych and doubles specialist Lukáš Dlouhy to the squad for the first-round tie against Kazakhstan in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava from March 4-6. The move seeks to fill a gap left by Radek Štěpánek who has pulled out because of flu. Jan Hájek, the world number 102, a doubt for the match, has said he will be okay for the tie. He earlier retired from the Delray Beach tournament on Tuesday.

ATP Dubai sees Djokovic through to final as Berdych retires

Tennis player Tomáš Berdych was forced to retire from the semi-final of the ATP tournament in Dubai on Friday, after suffering a knee injury. Berdych won the first set against Serbian opponent and World No. 3 Novak Djokovic but lost the second, before being forced to quit midway through the final set due to pain. Djokovic will face either top seed Roger Federer or Richard Gasquet in the final.


Saturday should see some sunny periods with daytime temperatures staying well below freezing in areas, between -8 and 0 degrees Celsius.