Daily news summary News Thursday, DECEMBER 09th, 1999

09-12-1999

Welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.

Those are the main points, and now the news in more detail.

CZECH-CHECHNYA-HAVEL

Czech President Vaclav Havel says Russia's ultimatum to the residents of the Chechen capital Grozny to leave the city by Saturday or face annihilation is both unacceptable and frightening.

Havel said on Wednesday that while he considered fighting terrorism legitimate even with the occasional use of armed force if need be, he feared that in the case of Chechnya, the planned Russian onslaught could be the start of a war against the whole Chechen nation.

President Havel was speaking after a meeting with his Mongolian counterpart who was visiting Prague.

Havel said it was difficult to believe that all the Chechens killed the fighting were terrorists, as portrayed by the Russian propaganda.

CZECH-ECONOMY-BUDGET

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman says his cabinet will not step down even after the lower house of Parliament defeated in its first reading on Wednesday a second draft of the Social Democrats' government budget for the year 2000.

The draft had envisaged a 42-billion-crown deficit, with revenues in the vicinity of 590 billion crowns and spending to the tune of 630 billion.

Out correspondent says that now the Czech Republic will have to run on a provisional budget.

CZECH-HAVEL-POLITICS

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Wednesday indirectly slammed the main-opposition Civic Democrats for their continued support of the minority Social Democrat cabinet, although they have repeatedly described its performance as poor and voted against the draft budget.

Havel and Prime Minister Milos Zeman met at the Prague Castle to discuss a government reshuffle. One of the cabinet members to lose their posts is Health Minister Ivan David, whose performance has long been criticised. The other one to go is Vice Premier Egon Lansky.

CZECH-CIVIC-POLITICS

The authors of a recent appeal for discredited Czech political leaders to resign have urged what they called all democratic parties in parliament to engage in a meaningful dialogue on the future of this country.

The appeal, released last month by six former leaders of the student protests, which helped bring down the communist regime 10 years ago, has received widespread support among the Czech population. Last Friday, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Prague and elsewhere in support of the appeal.

The petitioners demand the resignation of mainly lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the abrogation of a power-sharing agreement between their parties. They also want the whole Social Democrat cabinet to step down and demand that early elections be called.

Senior officials of the two main Czech parties have dismissed the former student leaders as self- appointed guardians of democracy, who have not been elected in a democratic vote.

CZECH-TV-BOSS

The widely criticised general director of Czech Public Television, Jakub Puchalsky, narrowly survived on Wednesday a motion of no confidence after five of nine members of that station's supervisory board voted for him to carry on.

A two-thirds majority of the vote was needed to return Puchalsky to his post. The former presenter of the Czech Section of the BBC World Service has been severely criticised by various professional organisations for his alleged failure to maintain and promote the public-service mission of Czech TV.

Puchalsky's trusted lieutenant, British-born Programme Manager Gordon Lovitt, resigned under pressure a couple of weeks ago. His post has yet to be filled.

CZECH-SWEDEN-PLANES

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on Wednesday said in Stockholm that his country has yet to consider the offer to buy Swedish-made jet fighters in the context of other bids.

He said after a meeting with Swedish Defence Minister Bjoern von Sydow that the issue would be decided by the next Czech parliamentary elections at the latest.

Sweden is offering its advanced SAAB Gripen supersonic jets to the Czech Air Force, which needs to be re-equipped with modern planes to replace its Soviet-era vintage inventory.

The other contenders are the American-built F-16s, and France's Mirage 2000s.

CZECH-GERMANY-WARTIME-SLAVELABOUR

Remarks from lawyers representing Nazi-era forced and slave labourers were dismissed on Wednesday by Germany's chief negotiator in the case, Otto Graf Lambsdorff, who said he was still waiting for an official counter-offer from the United States.

The long-running talks took a time-out till Wednesday, with a German offer of eight billion marks on the table and lawyers still insisting it was not enough.

The Czech Republic's chief negotiator in Berlin, Jiri Sitler, warned Lambsdorff on Wednesday against over-dramatising the clash between Germany and the United States. He said it was not automatically a sign of collapse that the U.S. side had yet to officially respond to the German offer.

He said Eastern European victims' unions that conferred last week in Prague had yet to hear an official response from the German side to their demands.

CZECH-VATICAN-CHURCH

The Czech Roman Catholic Church believes that this country is now ready to negotiate the long- overdue state treaty with the Holy See.

The Czech Bishopric Conference spokesman Daniel Herman said on Wednesday that President Vaclav Havel had been asked to inform Pope John Paul II about Prague's position during his upcoming state visit to the Vatican.

Together with Slovenia, the Czech Republic is the only post-communist country to have yet to open talks on formalising its relations with the Holy See.

Herman said the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs was currently working on the draft of such a treaty.

CZECH-UNEMPLOYMENT

The unemployment rate here in the Czech Republic at the end of November increased to 9 percent and the total number of jobless people has reached almost 470 thousand.

This development is slightly better than expected, because the end-year figure was estimated at between 10 and 11 percent. But analysts see the slowing down of the rise in unemployment only as a time-out for labour offices and expect a sharper increase in the beginning of next year.

CZECH-WEATHER

And we end as usual with a brief weather report.

We expect Thursday to be a wet but fairly warm day, with maximum daytime temperatures climbing to nine degrees Celsius, dropping to around zero at night.

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

09-12-1999