New Czech government led by billionaire Babis sworn in

Czech Prime Minister and ANO ('YES') party leader Andrej Babis, left, and Czech President Milos Zeman give a press conference after Zeman appointed the new Czech Cabinet on Wednesday at the Hradcany Castle in Prague. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2017
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New Czech government led by billionaire Babis sworn in

PRAGUE: Czech President Milos Zeman on Wednesday swore in a new minority government led by a populist billionaire whose centrist movement scored a landslide in a parliamentary election almost two months ago.
Andrej Babis’ ANO (YES) movement won 78 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament in October. Babis was sworn in as prime minister last week. The new Cabinet has 14 ministers.
Known for his slogan “everybody steals” and resolve to run the Czech Republic like a company, Babis opposes setting a date for adopting the euro as the country’s currency and the European Union’s plans to disperse new migrants to Europe among EU members.
“We will fight for security of our citizens, security in Europe, against the illegal migration,” he said Wednesday.
Babis will have a chance to discuss the thorny migrant relocation system with leaders of other EU member states in Brussels on Thursday.
Justice Minister Robert Pelikan, who was part of the previous coalition government led by Social Democrats, is among those keeping his post. Pelikan is deciding whether a Russian man who faces charges of hacking computers at American companies can be extradited to the US.
Czech authorities arrested Yevgeniy Nikulin in Prague in cooperation with the FBI in October 2016. He is accused by US prosecutors of penetrating computers at Silicon Valley firms including LinkedIn and Dropbox in 2012.
Former Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky, who is a supporter of the country’s pro-Western orientation, was appointed as foreign minister.
Babis faces fraud charges, a reason why no other parties agreed to create a coalition government with ANO. To rule, the new government must survive a parliamentary confidence vote scheduled for Jan 10.
If Babis’ government fails to win the confidence vote, President Zeman, an ally, said he would ask him to form a government again.
Another second failure would leave it to the new speaker of Parliament’s lower house, an ANO member, to select a prime minister.


Pompeo plans N.Korea meeting at 'earliest possible date': US spokeswoman

Updated 44 min 15 sec ago
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Pompeo plans N.Korea meeting at 'earliest possible date': US spokeswoman

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to meet with North Korean officials “at the earliest possible date” to implement the outcome of the recent leaders’ summit, a State Department spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters there had been contact with the North Korea government since the summit. “Secretary Pompeo will be meeting with them and talking with them at the earliest possible date,” she said, adding: “We don’t have any meetings or travel to announce at this time.”