Czechs ban export of spirits to the EU

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Czech Premier Petr Necas speaks at a news conference after the extraordinary government session in Prague Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. The government imposed a ban on Czech liquor exports which has taken effect immediately after its declaration, shortly after 19:30. The government complies with the European Commission (EC) demands, over the affair with methanol poisoning from bootleg spirits. (AP Photo/CTK, Katerina Sulova) SLOVAKIA OUT

PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic has banned the export to EU countries of spirits with more than 20 percent alcohol content after 23 people who drank bootleg booze tainted with methanol have died in the country.

Health Minister Leos Heger issued the ban Thursday at the request of the European Union.

For the first time ever, the government banned the sale of spirits at home last week to fight the methanol poisoning. Liquor stores removed all spirits from their shelves.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Petr Necas said his government hopes to lift the ban soon when new regulations go into effect requiring all spirits to be sold in the republic with stamps showing their origin, contents and distribution.

Poland and Slovakia had already banned the sale of Czech liquor.