News Friday, APRIL 17th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: April 17, 1998, 0700 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the main Czech-related stories at this hour, I am Libor Kubik in Studio 20.

HAVEL-HEALTH

Czech President Vaclav Havel, recovering from an emergency operation in an Austrian hospital, will require a routine second surgery on his intestine in about six weeks.

A portion of Havel's gut was removed in emergency surgery on Tuesday at Innsbruck University Hospital after he fell ill on holiday in the Tyrolean Alps. Professor Ernst Bodner, who operated on him, said Havel had been fitted with a colostomy bag to bridge the gap left in his intestine and this would be removed in routine surgery.

Bodner said the Czech President, who is doing well, was expected to remain in hospital for 10 to 14 days.

Havel's official programme till the end of May has been cancelled.

HAVEL-ILLNESS-CONTROVERSY

Here in the Czech Republic, a controversy has been building up over whether President Vaclav Havel's doctors should have noticed his illness sooner.

Czech doctors were outraged when Havel's wife Dagmar was quoted in the newspaper Pravo saying he was lucky to be in Austria when he fell ill and that he was in "the best hands". Pravo said the First Lady had previously questioned the quality of medical advice he got at home.

CZECH-US-NATO

A senior NATO official says the Czech parliament's overwhelming approval of this country's future membership of the alliance will have a positive effect on the upcoming vote in the American Senate.

US NATO Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said after a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy during his visit to Prague on Thursday that the Senate will probably vote on the accession of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary by the end of April or early next month.

Ambassador Vershbow was scheduled to meet Czech Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz on Friday for more talks on the Czech entry ratification process and on the enlargement of NATO.

CZECH-FRANCE-GERMANY-EU

The visiting French minister for European affairs Pierre Moscovici and his German colleague Werner Hoyer on Thursday said in Prague their countries want to be the driving force of the EU enlargement, similarly as in the case of the early European integration 50 years ago.

Minister Moscovici said after a meeting with Czech deputy foreign minister Pavel Telicka that some attempts to slow down the enlargement process were meant to enhance the quality of the broadened integration. He said France did not wish the EU to become only a souped-up free trade zone.

Deputy Minister Telicka is the Czech Republic's chief negotiator in the EU accession talks. His country and five other nations are considered suitable candidates for membership in the European Union.

Moscovici and Hoyer said Prague had a clearly defined political will to join the EU.

CZECH-PARLIAMENT-LANDMINES

The lower house of the Czech parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a set of international protocols on the ban or limitation of the use of selected conventional weapons.

Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz said one of the approved protocols was concerned with the ban on laser weapons. The other document has to do with the planned elimination of more than 44,000 undetected anti-personnel landmines.

Ministry sources said all Czech Army landmine stocks were scrapped last year.

CZECH-US-IRAN-RADIO

US Defence Department spokesman James Rubin on Thursday dismissed allegations -- published in The New York Times -- that the Czech Republic is reluctant to permit American broadcasting to Iran from the Prague-based Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, citing fears of terrorist retaliation.

Rubin did not rule out that the planned new station, broadcasting in Farsi, could become the target of terrorist attacks. He said however that the broadcasts should not be considered a subversion against the Iranian government.

CZECH-US-ASTRONAUT-MEDAL

At a ceremony in the Czech Academy of Sciences on Thursday, the US astronaut of Czech descent, John Blaha received a medal for his contributions to the development of space research.

Blaha has been visiting the Czech Republic at the invitation of the Ondrejov Astronomical Observatory, which is marking its centennial anniversary this year.

Fifty-five-year-old Blaha, a Vietnam war veteran, has flown five Space Shuttle missions and worked with Russian cosmonauts on board the Mir space station.

CZECH-RUSSIA-1968

Several public organisations said in Moscow on Thursday that Czechs and Russians should hold a conference on the Prague Spring 1968 -- a short-lived democratisation attempt crushed by a Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia nearly 30 years ago.

The organisations said in a joint statement that a conference on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the August 1968 invasion could help enhance Russia's international authority and reduce fears of that country's imperialistic ambitions.

The statement was signed by a number of Russian intellectuals, including Sergei Filatov and Alexander Yakovlev.

CZECH-POLITICS-POLL

The main opposition Czech Social Democrats would collect up to 30 percent of the votes if elections were held today. This according to the latest national approval ratings, released on Thursday.

The state-funded IVVM polling agency said the new Freedom Union would win 12 percent and its rival, the ODS, one percentage point less.

CZECH-WEATHER

Friday's weather -- we expect a wet and cloudy day with afternoon highs between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius, and around seven above zero at the altitude of 1,000 metres.

An outlook for the weekend -- a low-pressure area will move eastward across Central Europe, bringing more rain and scattered snow showers in the mountains. On both days, we expect nighttime lows between three and seven Celsius, and afternoon highs from eight to 12 degrees above zero.

And that's the end of the news.