The former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has arrived in her native city Prague for the start of a five-day visit. Ms Albright, who was born Marie Korbelova, is in the Czech capital to attend the Forum 2000 conference and promote her new book of memoirs, "Madam Secretary." The book has been translated into Czech by the former ambassador to the United States, Michael Zantovsky. Ms Albright, who speaks fluent Czech, will meet a number of senior officials during her visit including former president Vaclav Havel, who is a close personal friend.
Meanwhile the Chinese embassy has issued a statement strongly criticising a decision to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Prague. The Dalai Lama is attending the Forum 2000 conference for the fifth time, and will also preside over a three-day international conference on Tibet, the first time such a gathering has been held in Prague. Former President Havel is a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause, attracting criticism from the Chinese government. However his successor Vaclav Klaus has taken a more conciliatory position towards Beijing. Mr Klaus recently attended an official reception at the Chinese embassy, the first Czech president to do so for more than 25 years.
And President Klaus has denied that Thursday's speech to deputies in the lower house was an attack on the centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla. Mr Klaus said he had merely identified several serious problems facing the country. In his speech Mr Klaus criticised the record budget deficit proposed for 2004, and also raised objections to the government's package of finance reforms, which must be signed by the president before they become law.
A Czech court has issued an international arrest warrant for the Bahamas-based businessman Viktor Kozeny, accused of defrauding investors in the United States and Czech Republic of hundreds of millions of dollars. A Prague district court judge announced on Thursday he had issued the warrant for Mr Kozeny, who was charged by the Prague state prosecutors office in July. The charges are separate from a U.S. indictment announced earlier this month. A warrant was also issued for Boris Vostry, the former head of Mr Kozeny's investment company who now lives in Belize. The two are being prosecuted as fugitives.
Czech customs officers have seized packages of cocaine and marihuana on a bus heading for Prague from Rotterdam. The seizure was made at the Rozvadov crossing on the Czech-German border. Customs officers found 36 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of 30,000 crowns (around 1,000 US dollars) and small amounts of marihuana. Police were unable to identify the owners of the packages and no arrests were made.
Saturday will be a mostly bright and sunny day, with daytime temperatures reaching highs of 12 degrees Celsius. Temperatures at night will fall to lows of -4 degrees.
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