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Vaclav Havel and 12 other prominent figures call for united push to end 'autocratic' rule in Belarus

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel and twelve other prominent world figures have signed an open letter calling for the world to end "autocratic" rule in Belarus. In the letter published on Saturday, the signatories accuse President Alexander Lukashenka of routinely violating basic human rights and civic freedoms. They also warn that the last independent daily in the country, Narodnaja Volja, is in danger of being shut down. Apart from Vaclav Havel, signatories to the letter include the Czech senator Karel Schwarzenberg, the Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. They are calling on the United Nations and world governments to make a united push for democracy in Belarus.

Private agencies are actively recruiting Czechs for well-paid but dangerous security work in Iraq

Private security firms operating in Iraq have been actively recruiting in the Czech Republic, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reports. A young man who passed a training course in the town of Zlin told the newspaper that he was lured by promises of 80 US dollars an hour once posted in Iraq, which is fifteen times the average Czech wage. Authorities here say it is unclear how many Czech nationals have been recruited to do private security work in Iraq.

Culture Minister says he had 'no reason' to suspect organised crime link to casino Royal

The newly appointed minister of culture, Vitezslav Jandak, has said that he never suspected that the casino for which he helped establish a charitable foundation in 2001 had connections to organised crime. The Little Lion (Levice) children's foundation of which Mr Jandak was a founding board member was established by and received donations from the now defunct casino Royal. That casino's de facto owner, Assaf Abutbul, survived an assassination attempt in Prague last spring. Mr Abutbul's father was an Israeli crime boss known as 'The Butcher' who was himself killed nearby the casino in August 2002. Culture Minister Jandak told the daily Pravo that he was concerned only with the work of the charity, and had no reason to investigate the casino's other business.

Czech currency expected to gain on news of revised foreign trade surplus figures

The already strong Czech currency is expected to gain against the common European currency and the US dollar in September, market analysts have said. The prediction follows on news that the Czech foreign trade surplus for the first half of 2005 has been revised upwards, from 38 to 44 billion crowns. Economists say that GDP growth could now exceed 4.4 percent for the first-quarter of this year. The improved results should strengthen the crown from its current level of around 29.40 to the euro and 24.22 to the US dollar.

It's Lyon or Aston Villa for Czech striker Milan Baros

FC Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has confirmed that the English club are weighing up bids from Aston Villa and Lyon for striker Milan Baros, a Czech national. Baros, a top scorer for the Czech national team in the most recent European championships, is expected to leave Liverpool before the end of the transfer window.


Overcast skies and light rain is the forecast for the next couple of days, with daytime highs in the low 20s.