Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:
The downward slide at the Prague stock exchange has been halted following a verbal intervention by the finance ministry. The share prices of the hardest hit banks, Ceska Sporitelna and Kommercni banka, are visibly recovering, those of Ceska Sporitelna having risen by as much as 50%. Meanwhile, reacting to developments from Washington, Czech finance minister Ivo Svoboda said the rumours surrounding the three allegedly ailing financial institutions were a well-orchestrated campaign intended to damage not only the banks in question but the entire privatization process under the present government's leadership. He rejected rumours of plans to impose forced administration on these financial institutions as "utter nonsense". The general director of Ceska Sporitelna expressed a similar opinion, pointing out that the fall in shares at the start of this week reflected a global trend.
The Speaker of the Senate, Petr Pithart, has reiterated Czech support for possible NATO air strikes in Kosovo, condemning Russia's and China's efforts to veto the move as "totally cynical". Pithart pointed out that according to UN reports there are now over 270,000 homeless refugees facing a tough winter in the mountains. The strikes should do more to help those civilians than punish the offenders who drove them from their homes, Pithart said, expressing the view that the NATO air strikes should be phased-out in order to give Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic time and opportunity to avert a worst-case- scenario. The Kosovo crisis was also high on the agenda of a meeting between visiting Czech prime minister Milos Zeman and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana in Brussels Wednesday.
Britain has announced it is introducing visa-requirements for Slovak citizens. The move comes in the wake of a mass exodus of Slovak Romanies to Great Britain. In the past two months alone over 1,600 Slovak Romanies have arrived in the country seeking asylum status. Although the Czech Republic also has a Romany-exodus problem it has not acquired such proportions and a spokesman for the British embassy in Prague said there were no plans as yet to introduce visa- requirements for Czech citizens.
The Czech government has approved Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts to Iraq on condition that it be consulted on the matter of suitable headquarters for the new service. For security reasons Radio Free Europe will not be using its headquarters in the centre of the city and had planned to house the Iran/Iraq services in a Prague 6 villa. The government has said the choice is unacceptable, not least because the building happens to be right next to a nursery school.
On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, the Prague Magistrate has coined a series of commemorative silver medals which are to be awarded to Czechs who have promoted the Czech capital. Among those chosen for the honour are writer and film director Miroslav Hornicek, journalist and former culture minister Pavel Tigrid, and sculptor Olbram Zoubek.
No significant change is expected. Thursday should be another grey and overcast day with scattered rainshowers and day temps between 13 and 17 degs C.
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