Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is planning to send a letter to the United Nations to seek it's opinion on the deployment of a Czech field hospital to Iraq. Speaking in a TV discussion programme, former Foreign Minister and UN General Assembly Chairman Jan Kavan said Mr Spidla intends to get a UN standpoint on the issue before it is discussed in parliament. He added that he had been assured the Czech Republic would try to find a way of sending the hospital to the Middle East solely as part of a humanitarian aid programme and not in the Iraqi Freedom operation. Although it is yet unclear when the future of the Czech field hospital will be discussed in parliament, Prime Minister Spidla said on Saturday, that he was certain most lower house deputies would vote in favour of its deployment.
Hundreds of anti-war activists gathered on Prague's Palach Square on Sunday to protest against the military campaign in Iraq. Organised by the International Peace Movement and the Initiative Against War organisation, the event resembled a happening rather than a demonstration. Despite the cold weather and occasional snow, participants created banners, ate, drank, and symbolically drowned a puppet representing Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who has been publicly supporting the war in Iraq, by letting it float on the Vltava river. Since December, some twenty demonstrations against the war in Iraq have been organised in towns and cities around the country.
The deputy mayor of the northern city of Usti nad Labem has called onto the citizens of his city, as well as the Bohemian towns of Lovosice, Decin, Teplice, and Most to boycott the Czech private TV station Nova. Tomas Jelinek holds TV Nova responsible for a verdict of the international arbitration court, which ruled the Czech Republic should pay 10.5 billion Czech crowns (some 350 million US dollars) to a foreign company, for failing to protect its investment in the television station. Mr Jelinek made the public call on his web pages and some 200 posters that have been distributed around the towns in question.
Statistics suggest that Czech exports to the European Union, which make up seventy percent of the country's total, have increased significantly in the past few months. In January, a 4.5 % increase was recorded year on year to reach 145 billion Czech crowns, or some 5 billion US dollars. While exports have increased to Italy and Austria, they have decreased to Great Britain and the Netherlands. However, according to economist David Marek, there is not cause for optimism, as exports are expected to remain stagnant.
Sunday saw the opening of the 13th Prague Writers' Festival in Prague's Theatre Minor. This year, the festival is dedicated to the life and work of US author William S. Burroughs. Book lovers can look forward to meeting renowned authors such as Amos Oz from Israel, Irvine Welsh from Scotland, and possibly the holder of the Booker Prize, Arundhati Roy, from India. For the first time in the festival's history, Japan will be represented by the authors Gozo and Marilya Joshimasu. Art Spiegelman, known for his holocaust book Maus: A Survivor's Tale, will not be coming to Prague. The five-day festival will offer public readings, discussions, and signings at Theatre Minor as well as in several bookshops and the New York University in Prague.
The heavy snow that has made roads impassable and destructive high winds we experienced throughout the country on Sunday are not expected to continue into Monday. Monday has been forecast with overcast skies, scattered showers and some light snow throughout the country. Temperatures will range from -1 to 3 degrees Celsius.
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