The Czech Foreign Ministry has expelled the chargé d'affaires of the Iraqi embassy in Prague. The ministry's spokesman has said the Czech Republic regards the diplomat as a persona non grata and demands that he should leave the country within 48 hours.
All four Iraqi diplomats that were officially expelled from the Czech Republic last week left the country on Friday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman has said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to expel the four diplomats last Wednesday after assessing intelligence reports. However, the ministry has not yet decided whether to close down the Iraqi embassy, a move requested from the international community by the United States. Among the countries which have expelled Iraqi diplomats suspected of espionage are Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Germany and Australia.
The attitude of the Czech Republic on the Iraq war will not affect relations with France and the EU, the Czech representative at the EU Convention, Josef Zieleniec, told journalists after a meeting with French European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir. Ms Lenoir held talks with Mr Zieleniec and Czech senate chairman Petr Pithart on Monday. They agreed that the disunity of views inside the EU on the solution to the Iraqi crisis posed no problem to European integration. French President Jacques Chirac recently sharply criticised EU candidates for their siding with the US over the Iraqi crisis. Ms Lenoir explained that Mr Chirac had been speaking very rigidly on behalf of EU enlargement lately because of public opinion in his country which does not wish any serious discrepancies in the widened family of nations.
The Czech Republic's trade deficit widened slightly above market expectations to more than 140 million USD in February from just over 90 million in January. Analysts had expected a similar result in February as in the previous month. The Czech Statistics Office said nominal exports were flat year-on-year in crown terms, lagging behind imports which rose 7 percent year-on-year. In February 2002, the trade balance posted a 90-million surplus.
Czech customs officers confiscated over 250,000 USD worth of goods in open-air markets in the west Bohemian town of Cheb on Monday. A customs spokesperson said the items included nearly 2,000 pirated audio and videocassettes and 4,300 items of fake designer clothing, brand shoes and watches. None of the vendors present at the market admitted owning any of the goods.
A public prosecutor in the Prague-West district has decided to abandon the criminal prosecution of members of the Czech underground rock band The Plastic People of the Universe, which was started 26 years ago. In 1976 four members of the band were imprisoned on charges of disorderly conduct. After the fall of communism they asked to get their names cleared claiming that the 1976 trial was manipulated by the communists. Last month the Czech Supreme Court annulled the sentences from 1976 and ordered the public prosecutor to deal with the case again. The Plastic People was a powerful symbol of anti-communist opposition in the 70s and 80s and its members were frequently persecuted by the regime.
Tuesday should be partly cloudy with isolated showers in the north of the country. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach highs of 16 degrees Celsius.
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