Daily news summary News Monday, MARCH 29th, 1999

29-03-1999

Welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in full, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-YUGO-JOURNALISTS-APPEAL

Presidents and founders of journalists' associations from seven countries have appealed to their Yugoslav colleagues to abide by the basic principles of professional integrity.

At a meeting in Prague on Sunday, they also urged authorities to respect freedom of the press.

Irena Valova from the Czech Syndicate of Journalists said the International Federation of Journalists had asked its members in Russia and Greece to send teams to Yugoslavia to assist the work of their colleagues from NATO states as well as those from Serbia.

CZECH-NATO-GOVERNMENT

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan says his government has arrived at the conclusion that a U.N. or OSCE mandate sanctioning NATO's military action outside the territory of the alliance is desirable but not inevitable.

Speaking in a round-table debate on Czech Public Television on Sunday, Kavan said the government could imagine emergency situations, such the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo, in which NATO could intervene even without such a mandate.

Minister Kavan said the problem of NATO military actions outside its territory was in all likelihood going to be discussed at next month's summit in Washington.

The Czech Republic, together with Hungary and Poland, became NATO states more than two weeks ago. But there have been strong indications that most Czech politicians are opposed to NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia.

CZECH-YUGO-ACTIVIST-RESIGN

Charter-77 Signatory Anna Sabatova on Sunday resigned from the Czech Helsinki Committee, citing her disagreement with the committee's support for the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Sabatova, a former dissident and one of the closest associates of President Havel, said in a statement that human rights organisations can only fulfil their mission effectively if they refrain from siding with politicians.

She said that while she rejects the nationalist, populist regime of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, she cannot accept the idea that bombs protect human rights.

BRITAIN-CZECH-KOSOVO

Britain's Liberal Democrat chief Paddy Ashdown has said NATO must heed historical warning signs by containing the violence in Yugoslavia before it sends destabilising ripples throughout the rest of the Balkans.

Recalling the decision 61 years ago by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain not to intervene after Hitler's troops invaded Czechoslovakia, Ashdown said everyone should be concerned about the plight of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

CZECH-NATO-CONTROVERSY

Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml has openly questioned Minister Kavan's assertions that the decision to bomb Yugoslavia was taken before the Czech Republic joined the alliance.

Ruml is one of the few Czech political leaders who support President Havel's belief that the NATO strikes were an extreme but necessary option after all diplomatic attempts to persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to stop the war against Kosovo Albanians had failed.

The main opposition Civic Democrats, together with the ruling Social Democrats and the Communists, have voiced strong opposition against the action, saying not all diplomatic channels have been exhausted.

In a political debate on private TV channel Prima on Sunday, Ruml and his discussion partner Vojtech Filip from the opposition Communist Party accused Kavan and Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy of not telling the truth in parliament.

Former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, United Nations's special human rights rapporteur on the former Yugoslavia, said on Sunday that the allied air strikes could further escalate the humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo

He said he feared that the Yugoslav army and security forces would attempt to destroy any remaining pockets of resistance in the province.

Dienstbier does not believe the strikes would make Milosevic sit down at the negotiating table. He says NATO's failure to start a ground offensive will only convince Milosevic about NATO's reluctance to risk the lives of its troops.

Our correspondent says NATO gave its Secretary-General Javier Solana the clearance to order air strikes on January 30. An unidentified diplomat from a NATO country has said in Brussels that no member country may veto this decision.

Solana ordered the start of the raids on March 23.

CZECH-PORTUGAL

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres has arrived in Prague at the start of a brief visit to discuss mainly economic relations between the two countries and assorted international topics.

Our correspondent says, however, that these issues are likely to be overshadowed by the situation in Yugoslavia, where the Western allies have begun widening the scope of air attacks under phase two of Operation Allied Force.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels that what he called a "scorched earth" campaign by Yugoslav security forces meant that more than half a million ethnic Albanians, more than a quarter of Kosovo's population, had been driven from their homes.

He said among those affected was ethnic Albanian political leader Ibrahim Rugova, who had gone into hiding after his house had been burnt.

SPORT

Tennis -- and the Czech-Swiss double Jana Novotna - Martina Hingis won the Key Biscayne tournament in Florida on Sunday. In the finals they beat the U.S. double Monica Seles - Mary Jo Fernandez 0-6, 6-4, 7-6.

CZECH-WEATHER

And finally the weather report.

A high pressure area is advancing towards central Europe from the northeast.

Monday will be a mild day in the Czech Republic, with scattered showers and temperatures around 16 degrees Centigrade.

After a morning chill with temperatures between one and six Celsius, we should see more sunshine on Tuesday and temperatures between 13 and 17 degrees.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.

29-03-1999