Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Ray Furlong and we begin with the news headlines.
Those are the headlines, and now the news in more detail.
The leader of the main opposition Social Democrats, Milos Zeman, has made serious allegations against the former interior minister, Jan Ruml, who is now head of the Freedom Union. At a press conference on Monday, Zeman produced a letter allegedly written by Ruml in September last year on Monday asking the intelligence service to probe Western reaction to the fall of the Klaus government, which occured two months later. Zeman also said he had secret information showing that Ruml was behind the so-called Bamberg affair, designed to discredit the Social Democrats. Ruml has vigorously denied the accusations, and said that previous scandals unearthed by Zeman in the past had all come to nothing.
The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, is spending his last full day at Innsbruck hospital. Tomorrow he will meet with his Austrian counterpart, Thomas Klestil, before leaving for Prague by air ambulance. On Monday he made his first public appearance since falling ill two weeks ago. Havel appeared before television cameras at Innsbruck hospital to sign orders promoting seven Czech generals. In pictures broadcast on Czech television, the president walked without difficulty into the room where the ceremony was held, and appeared to be on the road to recovery. He made a brief speech lasting around a minute and a half, in which he thanked people for their concern over his health - as well as his doctors for returning him to public life in the crucial pre-election period. Earlier on Monday, Havel had had tracheotomy removed from his neck.
Roman Ceska, the head of the National Property Fund, has announced his resignation. Ceska said he was leaving the country's main privatisation agency after recent events in Parliament, where the absence of many right-wing deputies enabled left-wing parties to push through a resolution calling for privatisation to be halted. The cabinet subsequently re-affirmed its committment to privatisation, but Ceska said he had now made the decision to go. Nevertheless, his decision does not take affect until members of Parliament elect a new managerial board for the National Property Fund in their May session. Ceska said his resignation came at a time when most privatisation had been completed, but when sell-offs of strategic companies could no longer be expected.
The Czech Foreign Minister, Jaroslav Sedivy, continues his visit to Argentina today by meeting local politicians and accepting an honorary doctorate from one of the country's universities. On Monday he held talks with President Carlos Menem and with Foreign Minister Guido di Tella - discussing, among other things, the question of visa-free contact between the two countries. Sedivy said he had originally thought he would be signing a deal of visa- free contacts during his visit, but that now the accord would probably be signed in June.
The Czech statistics office has made new growth forecasts for 1998, predicting the economy will be less bouyant than it originally expected. The office now expects growth will be 1.4 percent, compared to an original forecast of 1.9 percent. It said the reason for the less optimistic prediction was that both government spending and private investment were down. Additionally, domestic demand is stagnant and wage increases minimal. Reacting to the gloomy new figures, central bank governor Pavel Kysilka said higher growth was possible - but that it depended entirely on exporters, who were the dynamo of the economy at present. He also urged for more resolve in the fight against inflation, currently stuck at around ten percent, arguing that without reducing inflation there would be no improvement in the long term.
The Interior Minister, Cyril Svoboda, has said he is looking into reports that the head of the Prague police was involved in human rights violations during the communist era. Svoboda described as "very serious" the reports that the current Prague police chief interrogated dissidents in 1989 at the notorious secret police base in Bartolomejska street.
The Silesian town of Hlucin has applied for UNESCO to put its former Czechoslovak border fortifications on its list of world protected sites, the town mayor told journalists today. The fortifications are part of a chain which originally ran along much of the length of pre-war Czechoslovakia's borders with Germany and Poland. They were never used for their intended function of defending the 1st Czechoslovak Republic, but the underground corridors and gun emplacements near Hlucin have served as a military museum for ten years. Local officials say the site is unique, and point out that thousands of visitors from all over the world admire it every year.
And finally, today marks the 53rd anniversary of the Prague Uprising, the bloody events at the end of World War Two when the people of the Czech capital took up arms against the German occupiers. The event is being marked by the Czech veterans' association with a memorial act at Prague's Old Town Hall, which was largely destroyed in the fighting. Senate Chairman and former prime minister Petr Pithart is also delivering an address at another memorial ceremony outside the Czech Radio building here on Vinohradska street. The new head of the general staff, Jiri Sedivy, has also marked the anniversary - thanking veterans of the uprising at a gathering held yesterday.
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