Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says he will be sending an ambassador to the National Transitional Council in Libya. Mr Schwarzenberg has said that the Czech Republic will not recognise the rebel government until it controls the entire country and does not intend to open an embassy. However, it is important, he says, to be in contact with the emerging institutions in Libya, for which purpose a ‘part-time’ ambassador will be sent to Benghazi, where the interim leadership is based. The previous Czech ambassador to Tripoli was withdrawn in February at the start of the insurgency. The National Transitional Council has currently been recognised by most of Western Europe and the United States.
A group of residents of the Šumava National Park on Friday morning held a protest against environmental activists preventing the cutting of trees in a protected zone of the forest. Some 200 arrived at the site of felling to thank the police and loggers and to bring food for the workers. Activists have been shackling themselves around trees and sitting in the treetops all week as police attempt to remove them from the area. The park management intends to fell about 4,000 trees in the protected zone in order to limit the spread of a bark beetle infestation that has devastated the forest. Environmental groups maintain that the park management has no exemption to cut in the zone. However, a preliminary court order allowed loggers to begin work there on Monday.
All involved in the Šumava protest abandoned the area on Friday afternoon after a bomb threat was announced. The police, guards, loggers and activists all left the restricted area to await a bomb squad after an anonymous caller phoned in the threat on the emergency hotline. Six activists had remained at the site and do not intend to return on Friday. An organiser for the protest group said he considered the threat a provocation intended to show the activists in a poor light.
A state prosecutor has halted a move to look into bonuses awarded by Public Affairs chairman Radek John to staffers, saying that the payments were unethical, but not illegal. Police have sought to investigate Mr John regarding the payment of 2.4 million crowns in bonuses to ten of his closest subordinates at the end of last year when he was minister of the interior. The case was brought against Mr John after he publicly defended a bonus of nearly half a million crowns to the head of the fire department intended to keep him from retiring. Other large bonuses, he said then, were paid out because there would not be money for them in the coming year. However, in his formal justification Mr John stated that the bonuses were paid out for the performance of extraordinary or outstanding work-related tasks.
A new poll conducted by the Factum Invenio agency suggests a six-party parliament would emerge if elections were held today. Like other recent polls, the survey suggests a large victory for the Social Democratic Party with 29% of the vote, more than 12 percentage points over their closest rivals, the Civic Democrats. The Green Party and the Christian Democrats, neither of which currently has a seat in Parliament, would cross the threshold of admission with 5.2 and 5.5% of the vote, or seven and nine mandates, respectively. The junior coalition party Public Affairs received a percentage of only 3.7.
The Ministry of Transport is checking the records of hundreds of people who recently received driving licences from Prague City Hall due to an investigation into 17 commissioners who are suspected of having issued licences for bribes. Licences issued in the last year in exchange for bribes could be revoked. Transport Minister Pavel Dobeš told the daily Lidové noviny on Friday that those found to have offered bribes would not go unpunished. Seven driving instructors and owners of driving schools are also being investigated in the affair.
A mass will be held in the cathedral of St. Vitus on Friday evening to honour the victims of last week’s massacre in Oslo. The service is to be led by the Archbishop of Prague Dominik Duka, who expressed his deep condolences on behalf of the Czech Catholic Church this week in a letter to the Norwegian ambassador Jens Eikaas.
Three people were killed on Friday in a traffic accident in the region of Pardubice, when a lorry hit two cyclists before falling from an overpass. Rescue services were located only 300 metres away and three units arrived in minutes. However, the cyclists had died upon impact and the driver had been killed in his vehicle. The same number of people died in an accident at the same location last month, when a van collided with car.
The number of pensioners in the Czech Republic has increased by 23,000 in the last year to 2,832,699 at the end of June, according to the Czech Social Security Administration. The office recorded 5,023,970 payers of pension insurers. Of nearly three and a half million pensions paid, more than 65,000 were sent abroad. There were also 458,844 handicap pensions and 720,900 inheritance pensions paid. The average pension amounted to 10,527, which marks a year-on-year increase of 452 crowns. The average age of pensioners was 68 let.
American astronaut Andrew Feustel arrived in Prague on Friday to begin a two-week series of lectures in Czech cities. The geophysicist was on the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour last May and took with him a toy figure of the famous Mole character, created by Czech animator Zdeněk Miler, which he also brought with him to the Czech Republic. Meeting the American ambassador to Prague upon arrival, Mr Feustel said that the Mole had enjoyed the trip but could not go into open space, as the crew lacked a small enough suit.
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