News Friday, DECEMBER 18th, 1998

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Welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-IRAQ-HAVEL

Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Thursday he can understand America and Britain's motives which stood behind their joint missile strikes and bombing raids against Iraq.

In a statement released by the Czech news agency CTK, Havel expressed hope that the preemptive strikes, which continued for a second night, will help enforce the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq and will put an end to Iraqi threats to the international community.

CZECH-IRAQ-REACTIONS

Prime Minister Milos Zeman said he would not make a personal statement. But according to his spokesman Libor Roucek, Zeman's views are identical with those of the Czech Foreign Ministry, which expressed understanding for the U.S.-British action but said it would have preferred a diplomatic solution to military strikes.

But Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told America's new ambassador John Shattuck that he was worried by the timing of the U.S.-British attacks. He said critics would associate the action with President Clinton's domestic problems.

Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus said he regrets the attacks but understands the attackers' motives and their fears of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy expressed regret that Iraq has failed to meet its obligations towards the international community.

In contrast, the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia condemned the strikes. Another condemnation came from Czech feminist organisations.

CZECH-IRAQ-NATIONALS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that there were no casualties among Czechs in Baghdad. It said that families of Czech diplomats had been evacuated and only the essential diplomatic staff were instructed to keep the post running and to monitor the situation.

The ministry disclosed that it had been informed about Operation Desert Fox a few hours before it started. It said the information had come from a state neighbouring on Iraq. It was therefore possible to evacuate families and non-essential staff well ahead of the strikes.

CZECH-IRAQ-BROADCASTS-EMBASSY

The Prague-based American stations Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Thursday extended its broadcasts to Iraq, Iran, Russia and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

The radio's spokesperson said its Arabic service to Iraq was now broadcasting four hours a day, compared with its previous two-hour schedule.

Czech Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich has ordered stepped up security measures to protect the RFE headquarters and the American embassy in Prague.

Britain and the United States made clear on Thursday that they would reject any plea to halt military operations against Iraq and were unmoved by foreign criticism.

And now briefly for the rest of the news:

CZECH-NATO-FOREIGN

NATO's foreign ministers have said they are confident that the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland will meet all entry requirements of the alliance.

The ministers, meeting in Brussels, on Thursday expressed hope that the three countries have adjusted their defence-building plans to the needs of the alliance.

CZECH-KLAUS-FAILURE

Thursday's meeting between Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus and leaders of all five parliamentary clubs on ways of tackling the country's worsening economic situation ended in disarray and its outcome was nil.

No communique was released and a visibly disappointed Klaus said at a briefing that the views of all those present had differed dramatically.

HAVEL-RUGOVA-KOSOVO

President Vaclav Havel on Thursday threw his weight solidly behind Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova's efforts to secure an autonomous rule for the troubled Yugoslav province.

Rugova has been on a visit to Prague during which he will receive a prestigious award for his contributions to human rights and democracy.

The ailing president, who is recovering from a bout of influenza, wrote in his letter to Rugova that a broad and well-exercised autonomy can create good conditions for overcoming inter-ethnic tensions.

CZECH-SOCCER

Football -- and Czech defender Karel Rada is leaving Turkey's Trabzonspor to join Slavia Prague on loan for the second half of the Czech league season.

Rada, whose spell in Turkey was due to end next June, said he was moving back to the Czech Republic to be close to his wife, who is expecting twins in February.

CZECH-WEATHER

Now the weather report: Warmer air continues to pour into the Czech Republic from the southeast. Friday will be mostly foggy, with temperatures between four and eight degrees Celsius.

At the weekend, a cold front together with a low pressure area will influence the weather situation. We expect scattered showers and some snow at higher elevations. Nighttime lows from zero to four degrees above freezing, daytime highs on Saturday from three to seven, and on Sunday between one and five degrees Celsius.

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