Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour
NATO enlargement evokes mixed reactions
There have been mixed reactions to the admission of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary to NATO. Congratulations and well-wishes have been pouring in from the Czech Republic's new allies, as well as candidates for the second wave of admission. Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria offered congratulations, stressing that their own future in NATO depended to a large extent on the performance of the three newcomers to the alliance. Ukraine and Belarus offered sharply different reactions. While Ukraine, which cooperates with NATO through the Partnership for Peace programme welcomed the alliance's expansion eastward, President Lukasenko of Belarus said his country would now need to beef up its military to defend itself. Not unexpectedly Russia has also been severely critical describing NATO enlargement as a dangerous mistake which could divide Europe anew.
Meanwhile, in a statement released late Friday President Bill Clinton welcomed the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary to NATO and stressed that the alliance's doors would remain open . Referring to an April 23rd summit in Washington Clinton said the 19 nation meeting would "reaffirm our commitment that NATO's newest members would not be the last". On this first wave of expansion President Clinton said it would make America safer, for it would make NATO stronger. "It will help us realize our common vision of a Europe that is for the first time undivided, democratic and at peace" Clinton said.
While many Czechs attended happenings and rallies to mark their country's accession to NATO in the course of Friday the country's elite celebrated the event on Saturday night at an army ball held, under the president's auspices, at Prague Castle. Over 1,000 leading Czech government and parliament representatives , diplomats and NATO officials attended the event. The ball raised half a million crowns in aid of various charities.
Two Czech political parties have protested against the country's membership in NATO. They are the Communist party and the ultra right Republican party. On Saturday afternoon around 200 republicans and anarchists gathered on Wenceslas Square to protest against NATO membership. Republican leader Miroslav Sladek recalled the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia 60 years ago and said NATO had only accepted the three new members because of their geographic location and the fact that Germany wanted to be rid of the burden of being the alliance's buffer state.
The explosion which seriously injured six policemen in the Moravian town of Prerov Friday was reportedly caused by police negligence. The incident happened at a police station in a busy shopping mall. Local police issued a statement on Saturday ruling out foul play and admitting that the explosion was caused by negligence of their own officers who brought in a vast amount of explosives which they had secured earlier that day and paid insufficient attention to storage. It is not yet known what caused the blast, since the injured officers have not been able to give statements. The eldest among them is in critical condition and doctors are fighting to save his life. Last week a bomb blast wounded one person in a Prague hospital and early on Saturday morning a bomb exploded in a deserted Prague open air market causing a fire in a garbage container but otherwise little material damage and no injuries.
Over 70 thousand people have now signed a petition demanding that the Social Democrat government address unresolved Church issues without delay. A series of post-1989 governments and Church dignitaries have failed to reach an acceptable compromise which would define the role of the Church in present day society and settle open restitution issues. The petition points out that church representatives who suffered through years of communist persecution and contributed to the downfall of this regime, deserve to be treated better.
A spokesman for the defense ministry has rejected allegations that the Czech military had tried to cover up a plane accident caused by one of the Czech pilots serving in the SFOR mission in Bosnia. The spokesman said that although one of the planes had been damaged, it had not actually been in an accident in the proper sense of the word. One of the pilots made a harder landing, coming in at a higher speed than regulations allow and the impact caused the mentioned damage estimated at around 1 million Czech crowns, the spokesman said . The incident is being routinely investigated and there was no reason to make the matter public, he added.
Finally a look at the weather: Saturday was a balmy, sun-drenched day in the Czech Republic with temps at between 11 and 14 degs C. Sunday brought partly cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine and a slight drop in temperatures to between 9 and 11 degs C.
The anti-Babiš demonstration at Prague’s Letná: Questions and answers
Preservationists slam Jiřičná design for new Prague high rise development
Black Hawk down? Communists could pull support for Babiš gov’t if Soviet Mi-24s are replaced
Reputed 250,000 attend Prague protest calling for resignation of PM Babiš
New book offers Czech children growing up abroad picture of home