Czech coalition stays united in nuclear power vote

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PRAGUE, Oct 24 (Reuters) The Czech government today defeated an attempt to split the centre-right coalition over the future of nuclear power.

The parliament blocked a proposal by the opposition Social Democrats that parliament, and not the government, decide on energy policy. Civic Democrats (ODS) are in favour of nuclear power but junior coalition partner, the Green Party, is not.

ODS backbenchers who had threatened to support the motion eventually abstained to defuse a crisis for the government which has 100 out of the lower house's 200 seats.

The Czech Republic may face an energy shortage in coming years and building new nuclear plants is one option, favoured by the Social Democrats, to boost supply.

The Green Party had said approval of the motion would violate a coalition deal to freeze any new nuclear projects.

''The Greens said this would be an unacceptable violation of the coalition agreement, so we did everything we could to accommodate them,'' said Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman, an ODS member.

''The aim was to split the government and the coalition,'' he told Reuters.

The coalition, in power since early this year, agreed to present a new energy policy by the end of 2008.

In most key votes, including a first reading vote on the 2008 budget yesterday, the coalition won support from two defectors from the leftist ranks.

The Greens have also been at odds with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, leader of the Civic Democrats, over his refusal to accept their candidate for the seat of education minister.

REUTERS SG RK1826

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