News Friday, FEBRUARY 25th, 2000

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Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. First we start with a bulletin of news read by Pauline Newman.

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines. Now a look at the news in more detail:

February 1948

Czechs and Civic initiatives prepare to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of the Communist coup in 1948. Former student activists and non government organisations will be holding a demonstration on Wencelsas Square in Prague at 5pm. They say they will urge people to remember the tragic results of the communist takeover and their rule which lasted for decades. The organizers also want to warn people about the danger of a power sharing agreement signed between the ruling Social Democrat party and the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats.

Havel approves compensation for Freedom fighters

Czech President Vaclav Havel signed a law on Thursday granting compensation to Czechs who fought against Nazism in the Second World War. A spokesman said Havel signed the law almost immediately, granting 120 000 Czech crowns or $3 300 to people who can prove that they were freedom fighters between 1939 and 1945 for the period of at least one year. For every month spent working in Czechoslovakia fighting Nazism, these people as well as partners of the deceased, are eligible for another thousand crowns.

Two more skinheads charged

Czech Police have brought charges against two young men who took part in a recent skinhead demonstration and gave the Nazi salute. Both stand accused of supporting and promoting movements which violate basic human rights and individual freedoms. They face sentences of up to five years in jail. This comes after last Saturday's demonstration in Prague, which saw over 100 members of the extremist organization the National Alliance taking to the streets. They say they were expressing their support of the far right Austrian Freedom Party headed by controversial leader Joerg Haider. In spite of these arrests the National Alliance and a similar movement the Patriotic Front say they intend to hold another demonstration on Friday afternoon in Prague to mark the 52nd anniversary of the Communist coup in 1948.

Exports to Iran blocked in run up to Albright visit

Speaker of the lower house of the Czech Parliament Vaclav Klaus has initiated a "legislative emergency" measure to block exports for use in the construction of an Iranian nuclear power plant. The planned exports have drawn threats of sanctions from America and other NATO countries. Klaus confirmed his move on Thursday afternoon, saying it is in the interests of national security and will reduce economic damage to the Czech Republic. Although Klaus approved the measure which was requested by the Czech government, he did say that it seems to be a rather hasty move, considering the exports have been public knowledge for several years. A state of legislative emergency, enables Parliament to discuss and approve a law in a shorter period of time which normally could take up to three months. The push for quick action on the measure comes ahead of a March visit by Czech born U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The U.S. State Department has warned that the exports from a Czech company for the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran would force Washington to consider unspecified sanctions against the Czech Republic. Other NATO members including Britain have warned that the power plant may have military uses.

Havel pleased at Verheugen's praise for CR but advises caution Czech President Vaclav Havel said on Thursday afternoon, that he welcomes recent positive statements from European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen on Czech preparations for membership. Verheugen said on Wednesday that Czech efforts at integration into the European Union have improved significantly in recent months. Last October the European Commission issued a highly critical progress report stating that the Czech government was behind in preparations.

A spokesman for the Czech President said on Thursday that although Vaclav Havel is pleased, he believes the situation will be clearer after the next European Commission report due out in six months time.

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told journalists on Thursday that hard work and closer cooperation between the cabinet and Parliament were to thank for Verheugen's words of praise.

Klaus plays down Langer comments

Vaclav Klaus, leader of the largest opposition Party the Civic Democrats, has been quick to distance himself from recent remarks made by his deputy Ivan Langer on the subject of the budget. Langer warned Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Wednesday that unless he revealed details of a forthcoming cabinet reshuffle, most Civic Democrat MP's would withdraw their support for the budget. Klaus said on Thursday that Langer is alone in his views and that he personally knew nothing of his statements. Klaus tried to play down Langer's threats saying they were not a reflection of leadership opinion. The Civic Democrats know that Milos Zeman cannot push through the budget for this year without their backing and they have made ministerial changes a condition for their support.

Environmentalists join UN mission and head for Romania

A team of Czech ecologists and environmental experts left Prague on Thursday afternoon for Romania. They are part of a United Nations mission which will monitor the results of a cyanide spill from a Romanian gold mine that has polluted three rivers in the Balkans. The operation will last three weeks while the experts assess the devastation. The Czech team leader told journalists on Thursday, that the most important part of the job will be to propose security measures which would rule out the possibility of future toxic disasters.

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather:

The weather is set to get a little warmer on Friday with temperatures ranging from 4 - 8 degrees Celsius. Skies will be overcast with scattered rain and more snow in the mountains. It will be much cooler overnight, though, with sleet and temperatures dropping to as low as -1 degrees Celsius.

That's the end of the news.