News Friday, APRIL 09th, 1999

Good morning and welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in full, read by Libor Kubik.


Hundreds of Czechs have signed an appeal called "We Are In NATO", whose signatories identify with the responsibilities their country has accepted by joining the Western alliance.

The organisers say its aim is to support NATO's efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the Balkan crisis.

Among the signatories are two former government ministers, the incumbent Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, and many notable public figures and church officials.


The Czech government will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the escalation of the Kosovo crisis and to find ways of providing humanitarian aid to ethnic Albanians expelled from the province.

It was also announced in Prague that both houses of the Czech parliament will meet next week to discuss the delivery of a field hospital and an unarmed cargo plane to the Balkans.

Government Spokesman Libor Roucek on Thursday said the issue was urgent and could not wait till Wednesday, when the cabinet normally meets.

He said the cabinet was going to meet before Monday's session of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, where the Czech Republic will be represented by Foreign Minister Jan Kavan.


Czech Deputy Prime Minister Pavel Mertlik said on Thursday that his government still considers Kosovo a part of Serbia and that's how it should stay.

Speaking to correspondents in Prague after diplomatic talks in France, Mertlik said the solution to the Kosovo crisis must be based on respecting human rights in Yugoslavia, including those of ethnic Albanians, and must not threaten Yugoslavia's territorial integrity.

He said the Czech Republic could help mediate peace in Yugoslavia, with which it has good contacts. Although Prague supports NATO's air strikes it believes that bombing alone cannot be a solution.

In the Czech Republic, which joined NATO only last month, a poll for public television has shown 40 percent support for the military campaign last week after 35 percent the week before.


The Czech Army is still looking for ways how to supply Albania with the rest of the field hospital delivered there a few days ago.

Defence Ministry Spokesman Milan Repka said on Thursday the equipment was so bulky it would not fit in Czech cargo planes. He said the army is negotiating with its NATO allies the loan of a bigger plane.


A prominent member of parliament for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia has said that his opposition party would only vote in favour of helping Federal Yugoslavia, which he said was being attacked by NATO planes.

Mr Dalibor Matulka said on Thursday that the NATO air strikes are acts of barbarism and international terrorism.


Yugoslavia's ambassador to Prague has expressed hope that the Czech Republic will help his country to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Kosovo.

The Ambassador, Djoko Stojicic, said on Thursday that both Yugoslavia and the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova had expressed willingness to negotiate peace. He said that NATO's attacks were bordering on the genocide of Serbs, and that the war in Kosovo was a clash of superpower interests.


Meanwhile, Yugoslavia's state-run media have announced that Serbian security forces have ended what they described as an offensive against terrorist ethnic Albanian guerillas and peace has been restored in Kosovo.

But NATO has said there is no evidence that government forces have stopped attacking ethnic Albanian areas in the province.


One of the most prominent Czech poets, Ivan Divis, died in Prague on Wednesday evening. Breaking the news to the public on Thursday, the Association of Writers said that 75-year-old Divis died after falling from a staircase in his house.

Divis, whose poetry was widely published in the 1960s, went into a German exile after the Warsaw Pact invasion of his country in 1968. He was an employee of the Munich-based Radio Free Europe. Divis returned to the Czech Republic in 1997.


In the West Bohemian town of Cheb, unidentified culprits have vandalised a memorial to U.S. soldiers killed during the liberation of the western parts of this country at the end of World War II.

Police said the memorial was smeared by swastikas and slogans condemning NATO and the war in Yugoslavia.

Police said they were launching an investigation.


Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan says his country wants to preserve its customs union with Slovakia even after it accedes to the European Union.

The Czech Republic is one the countries which are negotiating fast-track accession to the EU. The customs union with Slovakia was established soon after the peaceful split-up of Czechoslovakia more than six years ago.

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