Towns and villages in north Bohemia were bracing themselves for flooding on Saturday, after heavy rain and melting snow caused rivers to burst their banks. As water levels slowly return to normal in the rest of the country, the northern city of Usti nad Labem was preparing for a wave of floodwater from the swollen river Elbe. Officials are also closely monitoring the River Vltava in Prague, where villages on the outskirts of the city have already been flooded. There has also been isolated flooding in southern and western Bohemia. The worst floods in five hundred years devastated large areas of the Czech Republic in August, leaving more than a dozen people dead and causing several billion dollars of damage.
Earlier Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla sought to reassure the public over the situation on the country's rivers, saying there was no danger of a repeat of the devastation of August. Mr Spidla said he was aware of the tension which had arisen in recent days, but told the public the situation was being constantly monitored and was under control. The prime minister said new anti-flood measures were being prepared and will draw upon 3.7 billion crowns made available by the European Solidarity Fund.
Prime Minister Spidla also said on Friday he expected key negotiations on finding a successor to President Vaclav Havel to take place after January 15th, when the two houses of parliament meet in a joint session to elect a new president. Mr Spidla said talks between the parties in parliament had not secured sufficient support for any of the official candidates to win in the first attempt. Mr Spidla has in the past not ruled out changing the constitution to allow a direct election if the January 15 vote fails to choose a successor to Mr Havel, who retires on February 2nd after 13 years in the post.
A newspaper has said President Havel is to hold a goodbye party at the Lany presidential chateau outside Prague on Thursday, and has invited politicians, senior officials and military commanders to attend. Among the guests will be two former prime ministers - Vaclav Klaus, former leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, and Milos Zeman, former leader of the ruling Social Democrats. Both men are regarded as longstanding rivals of Mr Havel, and have often criticised him in public.
The discovery of extra revenue and lower costs at the year's end has allowed the government to unexpectedly cut its 2002 budget deficit. Finance Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Friday that year-end figures revealed a 2002 deficit totaling 45.7 billion crowns, or 1.5 billion dollars, far below the 62 billion crown deficit approved by parliament. The announcement came in the face of increased pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, which have criticised the government for failing to spend within its means. Last month parliament passed a 2003 budget with a record-high deficit of 111 billion crowns.
Austrian opponents of the Temelin nuclear power station in south Bohemia are into the third day of a "hunger strike" in the Austrian town of Freistadt in protest against the plant, which they say is unsafe. The anti-nuclear activists are due to end their protest on Monday.
Police in Prague have recommended that charges be filed against two men accused of making hoax telephone calls last summer claiming there were bombs at the city's Ruzyne airport. One of the hoax calls was made in June, the other in August. In both cases the airport was evacuated, and in the latter several flights were also cancelled. The two men face up to five years in prison if found guilty.
Saturday night will see the arrival of a band of cold air from the north, bringing an end to the mild weather of recent days. Temperatures at night will fall to lows of minus ten degrees Celsius. Sunday will be a mostly cloudy day with snow in places. Temperatures on Sunday will range between minus 8 and minus 4 degrees.
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