Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda and the U.S. ambassador to Prague William Cabaniss are in Baghdad for talks on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. The visit follows this week's announcement in Washington that at least three unnamed countries would be allowed to bid on the next round of multi-billion dollar post-war reconstruction contracts. Czech officials hope Czech firms, including engineering companies that built 60 per cent of Iraq's petrochemical infrastructure in the 1980s, will win some of the lucrative bids. After leaving Baghdad Minister Svoboda will travel to Jordan, where he is to hold talks with Palestinian leaders.
The Czech government has approved the sending of up to 150 troops to join the U.S.-led peace-keeping operation in Afghanistan. NATO officials have been urging allies to strengthen peacekeeping and other operations in Afghanistan, where nearly 500 people have been killed since August in attacks by the ousted Taliban militia. Under the Czech plan, which must still be approved by parliament, 120 elite reconnaissance specialists will join forces attempting to destroy pockets of resistance loyal to the Taliban and al Qaeda. A further 30 Czech soldiers will be sent to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), under NATO command, in Kabul.
A court in Prague has halted the prosecution of four former Communist agents accused of sending a letter bomb in 1975 to a Czech politician living in exile. The men had been accused of sending the letter bomb to reform Communist Jiri Pelikan, who was living in exile in Rome. The court said the offence was barred under the statute of limitations. A lawyer for the prosecution told journalists it was unlikely she would appeal against the verdict.
The junior coalition Christian Democrats have called for life sentences for serious crimes such as rape, sexual abuse, extortion and grievous bodily harm resulting in death. The party also want a "three strikes" system whereby three offences would automatically ensure a prison sentence.
An Italian tour bus crashed on Thursday on an icy road in South Bohemia, injuring 14 passengers. The bus was travelling between Naples and Krakow in Poland when it slid off the two-lane road into a ditch about 30 kilometres south of Brno. Ambulances transported victims to hospitals in Brno and Hustopece. No more details were given.
The Czech Statistics Office announced on Thursday that industrial producer prices dipped 0.3 per cent in 2003, driven mostly by lower production costs of food, non-alcoholic drinks and tobacco. It was the second such annual decline in industrial producer prices since 1991. However prices of market services and construction work rose for the full year by 1.6 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
Friday will be another overcast and rainy day, with snow in western parts of the country. Daytime temperatures will range from 1 to 5 degrees Celsius, falling at night to lows of -3 degrees.
Language exams for foreigners seeking permanent residency permit to become tougher
Czech teenager builds second-largest ever Millennium Falcon LEGO model
Gunman kills six patients in Ostrava hospital, two more fighting for their lives
HN: Developers aiming to sell co-living concept in Prague
Press: Era of 100-crown lunch special is over, as food prices rocket