Czech UN envoy warns against Kosovo independence
Czech diplomat Jiri Dienstbier has warned against proposals for granting conditional independence to Kosovo, saying it would be a dangerous game to play. His comments came shortly before Kosovo's first elections scheduled for Saturday. Mr Dienstbier, a former Czechoslovak foreign minister now serving as the United Nations' special human rights commissioner on Yugoslavia, said support for Kosovo independence would lead to further conflicts, including the division of Bosnia Herzegovina and the creation of a Greater Albania. Mr Dienstbier, who is seen as a controversial figure by many observers, is a fierce critic of last year's NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
The Czech Senate has upheld the Lower House's decision that the so-called 'lustrace', or screening laws, remain in effect into next year. The motion was supported by right-wing Senators, but the Communists and the ruling Social Democrats voted against. They argued that various international organizations oppose the Czech political vetting practices and that they institutionalise the failed principle of collective guilt. The screening laws came into force in the early 1990s. Their purpose was to prevent former Communist secret agents and other people implicated with the former regime from taking government and civil service posts. Opposition Senator Jan Ruml accused the Social Democrat government of doing little to explain to its international partners that the laws are still necessary.
Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy and United States Ambassador to Prague John Shattuck have signed an agreement on cooperation between their countries' armed forces. The United States has pledged to grant 400,000 dollars next year to help the Czech Army launch modernisation projects and new personnel training programs.
More than two weeks after a fatal crash of two Czech Air Force MiG-21 fighters in which two people were killed, pilots have been allowed to resume routine flights. The Air Force's chief Ladislav Klima says however, that the Soviet-era MiGs will remain grounded until the cause of the fatalities is known. Also grounded are the force's obsolete L-29 jet trainers, one of which has lately also been in a crash, killing its pilot.
Japan's Matsushita has said it will set up a firm in the Czech Republic in December to produce mobile phones and car audio equipment. A spokesman for the firm said in Tokyo that the decision follows Matsushita's success in the production of TV sets in Plzen and Ceske Budejovice. The new plant, to be located in Pardubice about 100 km east of Prague, will start production in October next year. It plans to locally hire 550 workers.
The Czech government has rejected a right-wing group's application to register as a bona fide political party. The interior ministry said it turned down the registration application of the far-right National Party, which takes positions similar to those upheld by the ultra-rightist Freedom Party in neighbouring Austria. A ministry spokesman said the party's registration bid was rejected because it contained incomplete and inaccurate information. Party members can appeal against the decision to the Czech Supreme Court. The National Party claims its members support democracy, patriotism, order and honesty. In a recent interview with a Prague newspaper, the party's spokesman Pavel Sedlacek denied allegations that his political group has ties to neo-Nazis and the skinhead movement.
A government bank has announced that it plans to proceed as a creditor in the bankruptcy of the Czech Republic's largest civilian aircraft producer, LET Kunovice. LET, which has built thousands of small aircraft since the 1930s, was declared bankrupt by a commercial court in Brno, based on claims filed by unpaid workers, an American airline and the government's Konsolidacni Banka bank. LET's American owner, aircraft producer Ayres Corp., has been fighting the bankruptcy petitions for months. Ayres officials have pleaded for more time to improve business at LET. But LET owes Konsolidacni about 50 million dollars and hasn't been able to pay its 1,500 workers for several months. The company and the bank also disagreed on the best management formula for sparking a turnaround.
And finally, the weather: On Thursday, a cold front will advance across the Czech Republic and eastwards. We expect early morning lows between six and 10 degrees Celsius, scattered showers and maximum daytime temperatures between 12 and 15 Celsius. Friday will be a clear but windy day with only sporadic showers, early morning lows between two and six degrees, and snow showers at higher elevations. Daytime highs between eight and 12 degrees Celsius. On Saturday, the skies will remain cloudy throughout the day, there will be frequent fogs in the morning, the lows between minus one and plus three degrees, and daytime highs between seven and 11 Celsius.
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