The Czech Republic has joined the group of countries willing to consider substantially reducing the amount of Iraqi debt owed to them. Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told newsmen that around a third of the outstanding debt of 126 million euro could be written off. He said the majority of the sum owed was for military equipment.
The Czech Republic's state deficit for 2003 is reported to have risen to 109 billion crowns, as compared to the 45.7 billion crown deficit from the previous year. The country's overall income in 2003 was 699 billion crowns, expenditures reached 808 billion. The government allegedly had a number of unforeseen expenditures, such as the devastating floods and the lost court case against CME.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has criticized US anti-terrorist measures which include fingerprinting all Czechs who travel to the US. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the Czech Republic would consider retaliatory measures. The CTK press agency quotes a well informed source as having said that the government might decide to make it more difficult for American citizens to acquire long term residence and work permits in the Czech Republic, possibly introduce visas for US diplomats. All Czechs who travel to the US require a visa, which puts them in the category of foreign visitors who are photographed and fingerprinted before stepping on US soil. The Czech authorities have long tried to get the visa requirement for Czech citizens lifted. US citizens travelling to the Czech Republic short term do not need visas.
Prague's main international airport Ruzyne which was closed down for several hours on Monday morning due to heavy snow is back in operation. A number of international flights had to be diverted to airports in other Czech cities, while four flights from Ruzyne were postponed. The airport reports that all runways are now clear and visibility is good.
Three Czech youths who attacked and injured a Romany couple in their apartment have received a three year suspended sentence. The state attorney is considering appealing the verdict. The youths, who faced a sentence of up to ten years, said they were immensely relieved by the verdict. In the courtroom they expressed deep regret over their actions saying that they had only intended to frighten the couple. The two entered the apartment pretending to be police officers and injured the man when he tried to throw them out and protect his pregnant wife.
The former Czech president Vaclav Havel has been awarded the International Gandhi Peace Prize. The Indian government said that Havel was awarded the prize in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards uplifting the spirit of human dignity, his faith in non-violence and for being a fearless voice against oppression. The award was presented by President Abdul Kalam and includes a citation and 10 million rupees.
Tuesday is expected to be overcast with scattered snow showers and day temperatures reaching minus 7 degrees Celsius.
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