Daily news summary News Saturday, MARCH 28th, 1998

28-03-1998

President Havel paves the way for an early parliamentary election, signing a constitutional amendment which cuts the current term of the lower house in half.

Germany's parliament votes overwhelmingly to admit the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as members of NATO.

And Czech travel agencies delete from their offer to U.S. clients the hotels owned by a Maltese corporation with strong Libyan ties.

These are the top Czech stories at this hour, now the news in full, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-HAVEL-ELECTION

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Thursday paved the way for an early parliamentary election, signing a constitutional amendment which cuts the current term of the lower house in half.

The move comes after parliament last week gave final approval to the amendment which shortens the present election period of the lower house to two years ending June 30, from the standard four.

President Havel must still officially call the poll, but he said earlier this week it would most likely be on June 19 and 20, the choice of most of the country's mainstream political parties.

Most parties had agreed on calling an early election to resolve a political crisis following the fall of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's minority centre-right government last November.

CZECH-GERMAN-NATO

Germany's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to admit the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland as members of NATO.

The bill was approved 555 votes to 37, with 30 abstentions. Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel told the house that German unification in 1990 would not have been possible without the support of states in Central and Eastern Europe.

He said that was why it was a moral obligation for Germans to help them return to Europe through membership of NATO and the European Union.

CZECH-LIBYA-TRAVEL-HOTELS

Czech travel agencies have now deleted from their offer to U.S. clients the hotels owned by the Malta-based corporation, The Corinthia Group.

The move comes in the wake of the U.S. Embassy warning earlier this week that Corinthia is partly owned by Libya -- a country under United Nations sanctions because of its endorsement and support of international terrorism.

Corinthia official Alfred Pisany said on Thursday that Libya does hold minority shares of his group.

The hotels blacklisted by the embassy include the Forum and the Panorama in Prague, the Chernigov in Brno, and the Palcat in the South Bohemian town of Tabor.

Fischer Reisen, one of the country's leading travel agencies, on Thursday suspended package products in favour of the Corinthia Group, pending clarification of the whole matter.

LIBYA-HOTELS-IGNORANCE

Few U.S. tourists visiting the Czech Republic are actually aware of their Embassy's recommendation that they do not stay in the blacklisted hotels.

The English-language weekly The Prague Post said on Thursday that tourists unaware of the scandal may never find out they are violating U.S. laws by checking in the incriminated hotels.

Miloslav Vyborny, cabinet minister for legislative affairs, on Thursday accused Czech intelligence services of a failure to provide government with sufficient information on the Libyan share in several Czech hotels.

However, the nation's Security and Information Service, BIS, denies any wrongdoing.

CZECH-MINE-UNIONS-STRIKE

Trade unions in North Bohemia's Most Coal Basin have called a strike alert in protest against the planned sale of state shares in the Most Coalmining Company.

Union leaders said on Thursday about 12,000 people would go on strike unless the plan is reviewed.

CATHOLIC-GAY-BILL

The Roman Catholic Church says it is against the bill on gay marriages, now being debated in parliament.

Czech Bishopric Conference spokesman Daniel Herman told correspondents on Thursday that his church considered homosexual partnership an abnormal thing, and rejected attempts to grant gay or lesbian couples the status of wedlock.

He said the church considers the human race a mutually complementary community of males and females.

CZECH-SOCDEM-SCANDAL

Czech Social Democrat MP Jaroslav Basta says his party's leader Milos Zeman will break his self-imposed silence on the party's alleged money-for-posts deal with a group of Swiss- based czech businessmen at the Social Democrat meeting on April 4. Zeman had previously vowed to keep mum for a period of 30 days. He said his party will sue an unknown perpetrator.

Basta told Czech Radio on Thursday that in his view, the mystery that surrounds top Social Democrats' dealings with suspect entrepreneurs in the German town of Bamberg almost three years ago, is a bubble that will burst with a lot of noise but little outcome.

The main opposition Social Democrats face accusations of having promised advantageous loans to the businessmen in exchange for financing their campaign before elections two years ago.

SOCDEM-BANKS-PRIVATISE

Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman reiterated on Thursday his call for big banks to be privatised when they have severed ties with big industrial corporations.

Zeman told a European banking forum in Prague that "haste is waste" in privatising banks and major industries.

The government of Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky is due to announce in May the conditions of selling the remaining state shares in three major Czech banks. However, final decision will be in the hands of the next cabinet, to be chosen in June's early elections.

CZECH-CULTURE-POLL

Most Czechs resent a low political culture of their elected representatives, according to a poll just out.

A survey, carried out by the state-funded IVVM agency earlier this month, shows that almost 80 percent of those questioned are critical of the levels maturity and public conduct of senior government officials.

Most of those questioned believe that there should be more public control and better information on the behaviour of elected politicians and the ever more frequent disputes among them.

RADIO-SUMMER-CHANGE

A reminder to our listeners on short waves in Europe -- the Continent wakes up one hour earlier on Sunday morning, when we switch over to daylight saving time.

From midnight UTC, all our programmes beamed to Europe will start one hour earlier in terms of Greenwich Mean Time. In practice, this means that you can still enjoy a programme starting at, say, 1600 UTC, at your favourite, convenient 18 hours European Summer Time.

For more details, listeners should send for their free copies of Radio Prague's transmission schedule.

CZECH-WEATHER

Friday's weather -- we expect a rather balmy but wet day, especially in the evening hours, when some scattered snow showers could occur in the mountains. But spring has come, as evidenced by temperatures between eight and 12 degrees Celsius, forecast for the afternoon.

An outlook for the weekend -- and very warm air will pour into Central Europe on both days from the southeast. We expect nighttime lows from two to six above zero, and afternoon highs from 12 to 16 Celsius on Saturday, and an incredible 17 to 21 degrees on Sunday.

And that's the end of the news.

28-03-1998