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Problem forces Czech leader's plane back to Lisbon

A plane carrying Czech President Vaclav Klaus was forced to turn back to its departure point of Lisbon on Thursday after a mechanical problem with the landing gear, Mr Klaus's office said. The president was flying on a Czech government plane from the Portuguese capital to the city of Oporto when the problem was detected shortly after takeoff. The plane turned back immediately and landed without incident. No injuries were reported. The CTK news agency reported that Mr Klaus said he never felt in danger during the incident.

Senate rejects Benes commemoration

The upper house of the Czech Parliament, the Senate, has turned down a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. In a discussion preceding the vote, the senators did not dispute the service that president Benes rendered in establishing an independent Czechoslovakia but many pointed to his disputable role during the period of the Munich crisis in 1938 and during the Communist coup d'etat in 1948. A similar law commemorating the first Czechoslovak president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was passed in 1930, and according to many senators was intended at the time to remain unique. Appeals to the Senate and the president to reject the bill have also been made by the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft who have long demanded the abolition of the decrees enacted by president Benes that expelled ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War Two. The senators made it clear, though, that their objections were not related to those appeals.

Schoolboy found dead, police suspect suicide

Police say they have found the body of a thirteen-year old schoolboy from Trinec, North Moravia, in a nearby wood. A gun, belonging to the boy's stepfather, was found near the body but it is yet unclear whether the boy was killed or committed suicide. The boy had been missing since Wednesday. Police are now investigating the circumstances of his death.

Havel ill, cancels schedule for 10 days

Former Czech President Vaclav Havel has been forced to cancel all engagements for the next 10 days after falling ill with respiratory problems, his spokeswoman said on Thursday. Mr Havel, who is 67, is resting at home and is under the care of his personal physician. His spokeswoman did not say how serious his illness was, but added that Mr Havel had cancelled his programme as a precaution based on his doctor's advice. The playwright, the most prominent symbol of the Czech Republic and its "Velvet Revolution", was elected president after the 1989 overthrow of the Soviet-backed regime. He left his seat at Prague castle last year.

Last year's marriage rate lowest since WW1

The Czech Statistics Office has said that last year saw the lowest number of weddings since the First World War. While in the early 1990s, there were more than 70,000 marriages a year, the number dropped to less than 50,000 in 2003. According to experts, the fall in the number of marriages is one of the typical features of demographic developments after 1990. More young people prefer to live together without officially registering their partnership, and if a couple decide to get married, they tend to do it at an ever higher age. After several years of stagnation, the number of divorces increased last year, reaching almost 33,000. According to a recent poll, marriage still remains a popular institution in the Czech Republic, with 70 percent of single women and 69 percent of single men saying that they would like to get married in the future.


Friday should be partly cloudy with daytime temperatures ranging from 4 to 9 degrees Celsius.