The Environment Ministry has refused permission to the Transport Ministry to build two weirs on the Elbe River in north Bohemia, saying both proposed weirs were in protected areas. However, the ministry's decision could be overruled in a vote in the Chamber of Deputies this week. Under a bill put forward by the former transport minister, Jaromir Schling, the law on the environment would make exceptions for the modernisation of waterways of international importance, meaning the Elbe, the Oder and the Danube. Environmental groups say, however, that the bill would allow for unprecedented devastation of the landscape.
The Czech ambassador to Kuwait, Jana Hybaskova, has sharply criticised the decision to recall a Czech military field hospital from the neighbouring state of Iraq. Speaking in an interview in Wednesday's Mlada fronta Dnes, Ms Hybaskova said the field hospital was pulling out of Basra at the very moment the Czech Republic should be starting to capitalise on all it had invested in Iraq. She said there was a "lack of political will to see things through to the end".
President Vaclav Klaus has vetoed the first provision of a package of bills introduced by the government in an effort to reform the public finances. On Wednesday Mr Klaus's office said the president had refused to sign a bill increasing health insurance payments for the self-employed. However, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said he was optimistic that the governing coalition would unite to override the president's veto when the bill comes before the Chamber of Deputies for a second time. Mr Spidla has staked his political future on the financial reforms, which were introduced in reaction to a record budget deficit.
Three police officers have been accused of assaulting a group of Romany men in the East Bohemian town of Dobruska at the weekend. The accusations were made by witnesses to the incident, which took place in a local gambling bar. The witnesses said the officers had attacked the men without the reason. However a police spokesman said the officers themselves were assaulted and that coercive means were only used after the men became aggressive. He said one of the men broke several panes of glass with his head while being restrained at the local police station. The men face charges of assaulting a police officer and hooliganism.
President Vaclav Klaus, who is on a four-day working visit to the United States, has held talks with the US vice president, Dick Cheney. During Thursday's meeting Mr Klaus told Mr Cheney that the Czech Republic, like the US, was not a "strong supporter" of the development of common European defence forces. The two men also discussed the situation in Iraq and the latest terrorist attacks. Mr Klaus has met several senior officials in the US, including the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, and the president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn. Before returning to Prague, Mr Klaus was also due to meet members of the Czech community in the US and to visit a monument to the first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
Meanwhile, the Association of Independent Trade Unions has called on President Klaus to veto parts of a government financial reform package. Officials said on Friday that over 100,000 union members had signed the letter, which demands amendments to legislation designed to combat the Czech Republic's record budget deficit.
President Vaclav Klaus, who is on a visit to the United States, is going to meet the US Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday to discuss global issues, including the situation in Iraq. On Wednesday, President Klaus gave a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and in the afternoon met with Senator Richard Lugar for talks about bilateral and international relations.
The Czech field hospital in Basra is to leave the country before the end of the year, having completed an eight month long mission in the southern Iraqi city. The hospital treated both civilians and soldiers, conducting over 200 operations and treating over 10,000 people. Making the announcement in Prague on Wednesday, Czech Defence Minister Miroslav Kostelka said the hospital staff had done a great job and its work was much appreciated both by the allies and the locals. The field hospital is to be replaced by a Czech military police unit to be deployed 25 kilometres from Basra. The unit is to help train local police officers.