Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla defeated a challenge to his leadership on Saturday at the Social Democrats' national convention, however, many analysts say, the narrow victory is unlikely to quell dissent within his party. Mr Spidla took 299 votes in the balloting, just 26 more than needed for victory. Former minister Jiri Rusnok, the only challenger, took 147 votes. In the weeks preceding the convention Mr Spidla had faced strong dissent from the party's left which had criticised the prime minister for abandoning key social policies that saw his party win in national elections last June. Before the convention some analysts also predicted a further cabinet reshuffle if Mr Spidla retained the chairmanship. Two weeks ago he sacked Jiri Rusnok as Industry and Trade Minister, for his part in a revolt in February's presidential elections. That revolt saw a wing within the Social Democrats fail to support the coalition government's presidential candidate.
The Social Democrat's national party convention, which wrapped up on Sunday, also saw three deputy chairman, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach, Health Minister Marie Souckova, and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, retain their posts. On Sunday new-comer Martin Tesarik, the mayor of Olomouc in eastern Moravia, defeated Lubomir Zaoralek in balloting to capture the only remaining deputy post. Mr Tesarik received 276 ballots compared to Mr Zaoralek's 207. Lubomir Zaoralek is the speaker of the Lower House.
Austrian authorities have confirmed the identities of three Czech skiers killed on the Hintertux ice-cap on Saturday. The skiers fell down a 30-metre long ravine, after a snow shelf collapsed beneath their feet. Rescue crews and a helicopter worked all day at over 3,000 metres above sea level, to try and save the men but none of the three were recovered alive. The skiers, aged 23, 24, and 45, were from the town of Kolin, east of Prague, where relatives have been notified. Austrian authorities said the Czech men had been skiing on a part of the mountain that had been officially closed off.
The commander of the joint Czech and Slovak anti-chemical unit base in Kuwait, Dusan Lupuljev, has described the situation there as calm, due to the temporary halt of US-led ground troops moving further into Iraq. The commander made the statement in a telephone interview with journalists on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Czech Army is currently waiting for approval by parliament this week to send a field hospital to the region. Last week sixteen elite Czech special forces soldiers were dispatched to Kuwait to increase security over increased fears over possible terrorist attacks against individual units. The Czech and Slovak anti-chemical units count 385 and 69 soldiers, respectively,
Eleven people were hospitalised in the region of Olomouc, eastern Moravia, on Sunday afternoon, after suffering respiratory difficulties when an unknown gas was released in a local supermarket. Experts are trying to determine the nature of the gas, though representatives for the market chain believe it was a form of tear gas used by an unknown assailant. Fire-fighters were able to determine the gas was not weapons-grade. In the meantime, the supermarket has been closed off by police.
In football the Czech Republic drew an important 1-1 tie with the Netherlands on Saturday to remain just behind Holland in their Euro 2004 qualifying group. Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored for the Dutch in the first half, heading in a cross from Edgar Davids. In the second the Czechs fought back, coming close with an effort by Tomas Rosicky, then getting the equaliser from Jan Koller in the 68th minute. The tie brings to an end the Czech Rebublic's run of 15 successive European qualifying victories, that stretches to August 1995. The Netherlands, unbeaten in 12 games, go top the qualifying group with seven points, just ahead of the Czechs on goal difference. Austria, who visit the Czechs on Wednesday, are third in the group, with six points.
Monday is expected to be mostly sunny with some cloudy periods, and daytime temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius.
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