The Czech Foreign Ministry has confirmed reports that a Czech petrochemical expert was killed and two others severely burned during a gas explosion in an oil refinery in Iraq last week. A representative for the Czech Chemoprojekt company, which is helping to reconstruct one of southern Iraq's three refineries, also said on Monday that a worker was among the victims. The Foreign Ministry stresses that the explosion was in no way linked to terrorism.
Some fifteen activists from the civic association Nesehnuti gathered in front of the Defence Ministry in Prague on Monday to protest against the country's arms trade. The activists say the Czech state fails to monitor where the Army's weapons and ammunition go from the Czech army stores and could therefore often end up in undemocratic countries that violate human rights. The entrance to the ministry was blocked for about one hour when three activists chained themselves to the main gate and another two climbed up to expose a banner reading "Defence Ministry: Do you Know where Your Weapons are Killing People?".
The United States Embassy in Prague has begun collecting fingerprints as biometric identifiers for visa applicants. The two index fingers of a visa applicant are electronically scanned in an inkless process at the beginning of the visa interview. Children under 14 years of age and applicants over the age of 79 are exempt from the procedure. The electronic data from the fingerprints will be stored in a database and will be available to immigration officers at ports of entry in the United States to verify that the person presenting the visa is the same person who was issued the visa. Over 100 US embassies and consulates worldwide have begun collecting biometric data for visa applicants as part of the US fight against terrorism.
The transport ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland have signed an agreement to build a road connecting transport networks of the three countries' border regions. The ministers agreed in the Bohemian town of Zitava on Monday that construction of the road for passenger cars, buses, as well as trucks will begin on May 1. Germany has agreed to release more than one third of the planned 13 million Euros the country is to provide for the construction of the road and a bridge within the next month. The Czech Republic is expected to release 2.5 million from its budget for the construction of the road and invest several million Euros in a new border crossing. The road and the border crossing should be completed in 2007.
A police rapid reaction unit killed a man on Sunday evening as they were trying to arrest him at the request of the National Anti-Drug Squad. The man was shot dead in front of a hypermarket near the northern city of Usti nad Labem. Police managed to arrest the dead man's accomplice. Two police officers suffered injuries in the operation. According to a police spokeswoman, the victim was not a Czech national and was a member of a large drug-smuggling gang.
The German telecommunications operator Deutsche Telekom is reported to have expressed interest in the privatisation of the dominant Czech landline operator Cesky Telecom. The information has been published in the Czech business weekly Euro which referred to several independent sources. The privatisation of Cesky Telecom should start in the second half of 2004. Among the potential bidders are also the Danish telecoms company TDC, Goldman Sachs, and Swisscom. Analysts estimate the price of the 51-percent state share in Cesky Telecom at 50 to 65 billion crowns.
Two Czech men accused of catching protected beetles have been remanded in custody by a court in Slovakia. The two, who were arrested near the Slovak town of Kosice last Thursday, are also accused of killing protected caterpillars. If found guilty of endangering protected wildlife, the men, aged 60 and 36, could face up to three years in prison or pay a large fine.
Tuesday has been forecast with overcast skies and daytime temperatures between 8 and 11 degrees Celsius.
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