News Friday, DECEMBER 17th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Jana Kotalik. We begin as usual with the news headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Zeman in China

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman meets with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Friday and the two men are to concentrate on economic cooperation. Prime Minister Milos Zeman's official visit to China is aimed at strengthening commercial and economic ties between the two countries. Zeman was present on Thursday at the signing of a contract worth 9.5 billion Crowns between Skoda Export and China Electric. The deal, according to Czech Minister of Industry and Trade Miroslav Gregr will be a profitable one for the Czech side, providing jobs and elevating the Czech Republic's reputation on the Chinese market and elsewhere/internationally. Some specialists have warned, however, that Beijing has managed to negotiate such a significant drop in the price that the deal will not be profitable for the Czech side.

Zeman in China 2

While in Beijing on Thursday, Zeman told Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji that the Czech Republic, like the rest of the international community, does not wish to intervene in China's internal affairs. Zeman is expected to bring up the issue of democracy and human rights in China with President Jiang Zemin on Friday and include it in a joint communique to be pronounced on Saturday at the conclusion of Zeman's visit.

Komercni Banka

Representatives of one of the largest Czech banks Komercni Banka admitted on Thursday that its 8 billion Crown loss could complicate the bank's forthcoming privatisation. Analysts have said that the loss will lead to the state selling its shares in the bank under unfavourable conditions. Control of the bank's accounts have revealed that the 8 billion Crown loss came from a bad loan which some have speculated can be traced to the Austrian firm B.C.L. Trading.

Klaus invitation to Kasal

Leader of the Christian Democrats Jan Kasal said on Thursday that he is willing to accept the invitation of opposition Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus to high-level talks between their parties only after Klaus' party cancels the opposition agreement - the power-sharing pact the Civic Democrats signed with the ruling Social Democrats after parliamentary elections 18 months ago. Kasal's refusal to the invitation was received negatively by Deputy Chairwoman of the Civic Democrats Libuse Benesova who told journalists on Thursday that the move shows that the Christian Democrats are not interested in changing the current political situation. The Civic Democrats invited fellow right-of-centre opposition party leaders Jan Kasal and Karel Kunhl to high-level talks at the beginning of January, and are expected to extend the same invitation to the ruling Social Democrats after Prime Minister Zeman's return from Asia.

Public Opinion on Chechnya

A recent public opinion survey conducted by the STEM polling agency has shown that the majority of Czechs are opposed to the Russian operation in Chechnya. 54 % of respondents were against Russia sending in troops to the breakaway republic. Even though only 13 % of those polled were in agreement with Russia's policy towards Checnya, almost half of them - 41 % considered Russia's campaign comparable to NATO's spring attack on Yugoslavia. And finally, according to the STEM poll, 57 % of Czechs consider Russia a threat to the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile about 150 protestors demonstrated outside of the Russian Consulate in Brno on Friday, expressing their protest to Russia's military campaign in Chechnya, and calling for Prague to close the consulate. One of the organizers of the protest from the Sova Association told journalists that they have addressed an open letter to Prime Minister Milos Zeman calling for Prague to break diplomatic ties with Russia.

New Laws on Political Asylum

The Czech Helsinki Committee has welcomed the introduction of new asylum legislation, to go into effect on the 1st of January. An employee of the Czech Helsinki Committee's refugee bureau told reporters on Thursday that the legal reforms should improve the situation of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic. The new legislation will ensure that persons refused refugee status who are awaiting the decision of an appeals court, will be guaranteed minimal safety and accomodation. The number of asylum seekers who have not been granted refugee status has increased sharply over the last few years. While in 1993, 250 out of the 2200 applicants were accepted as refugees, this year by the end of October, only 55 out of 5700 asylum seekers have been accepted.


And as usual we end with a quick look at Friday's weather forecast. After a fairly cloudy morning the skies should clear up in the afternoon. Daytime temperatures should reach a maximum of one degree Celsius with night-time temperatures falling to as low as minus eight degrees.

I'm Jana Kotalik and that's the end of the news.