Czech President Vaclav Klaus has arrived in Beirut for a three-day official visit to Lebanon. Accompanied by his wife Livia, Mr Klaus visited the National Museum, and met speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Birri and Government Chairman Rafik Hariri. On Monday night, the Czech presidential couple attend a festive dinner, organised in their honour by Mr Klaus's counterpart Emile Lahoud. The Czech President will also be giving a lecture at the American University of Beirut and hopes to do some sightseeing in the Lebanese capital before leaving for Cyprus on Wednesday, where he is scheduled to stay for two days.
The Czech Republic has maintained diplomatic relations with Lebanon since 1947. The annual trade balance between Lebanon and the Czech Republic has decreased steadily in the last five years from 55 million dollars to 33 million dollars this year, largely favouring Prague, according to official figures. Lebanon mainly imports food, agricultural and chemical products as well as paper, milk, textiles, cars and crystal from the Czech Republic while its exports include agricultural, chemical and mineral products.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-Wook, has arrived in Prague for a two-day trip to the Czech Republic. Mr Lee Jong-Wook, who is from the Republic of Korea, met with the recently appointed Czech Health Minister Jozef Kubinyi shortly after his arrival to discuss the state of the Czech health sector and exchange ideas for a suitable national health policy plan. After visiting a TBC unit in Prague, he stated that the Czech Republic had done well to fight tuberculosis and could play a major role in helping neighbouring countries that are worse off combat the disease. Mr Lee Jong-Wook is yet to visit the Czech Parliament, hold talks with the chair of parliament's health committee, as well as meet former Czech president Vaclav Havel.
Eight Cuban dissidents and former political prisoners arrived in Prague on Sunday to meet politicians and other Czech personalities supporting human rights around the world. The Cubans will meet with former Czech president and dissident Vaclav Havel, Senate Chairman Petr Pithart, members of the Czech Parliament, and had lunch with Deputy Foreign Minister Pavel Vosalik. According to Mr Vosalik, the Czech Republic is willing to finance a campaign that would promote democracy in Cuba from the foreign ministry budget meant for international help. After a meeting with the Chairman of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Miroslav Topolanek, the group was assured that the Czech Republic would continue to support its cause, even if a new government headed by the right-of-centre Civic Democrats was formed. Among the dissidents are three former political prisoners. They were invited to Prague by the Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need, which has been supporting human rights activists fighting against the totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba.
The Czech Republic respects press freedom but still needs to bring its legislation on defamation in line with international standards, the international journalist organisation Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report for 2004. According to the organisation, laws punishing defamation and perceived insults frequently hamper journalists in their work and give undue protection to the authorities.
The Czech Republic's state budget deficit grew to 38.1 billion Czech crowns from 7.82 billion in March. At the same time last year, it had a deficit of 64.4 billion crowns, the Finance Ministry announced on Monday. The widening of the deficit in April was mainly due to a state contribution to building societies which amounted to 14.8 billion crowns. The ministry expects the full-year deficit to reach some 115 billion crowns.
Tuesday is expected to have clear skies with day-time temperatures reaching a maximum of 25 degrees Celsius.
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