News Friday, JANUARY 22nd, 1999

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


State attorneys in the eastern districts of the Czech Republic have declared war on racially motivated crime.

Attorney Ivo Istvan from the town of Olomouc told correspondents on Thursday that defendants with known allegiance to skinhead groups would have to expect stiffer penalties if convicted on racism charges.

He said attorneys were prepared to take legal action against those who assault people because of the colour of their skin.


Czech Ambassador to NATO Karel Kovanda said on Thursday that after the admission of his country, Hungary and Poland, the alliance will not be taking in new members for a period of at least two years.

He said in Prague that while NATO remain committed to an open-door policy a further enlargement was not probable in the near future.

The Czech Republic and the other two central European nations are set to become NATO members this coming spring.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Thursday that NATO, the European Union and relations with his country's neighbours remained top priorities for the Czech Republic.


The shadow cabinet, recently formed by the main opposition Civic Democratic Party of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus, has strongly rejected the Social Democrat government's plan to use taxpayers' money to bail out selected uneconomical enterprises.

The shadow cabinet on Thursday attacked Social Democrat Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr's plans to revitalise the Czech economy in this way.

The ODS also accused Transport and Telecommunications Minister Antonin Peltram of incompetence, and Health Minister Ivan David of throwing the Czech health care system into chaos.

Our correspondent says the Social Democrats were able to form a majority government after June's parliamentary elections only thanks to a non-aggression pact with the ODS.


Prime Minister Zeman dispelled speculations on Thursday evening about the imminent sacking of Health Minister Ivan David. Other senior Social Democrat officials have also described reports about David's immediate demotion as baseless rumours.

Some press reports have suggested that David, whose record has been widely criticised, would soon be replaced.

Correspondents have quoted reliable sources which did not wish to be identified as saying Zeman could sack the minister within the next few days.

Minister David was not available for comment on Thursday. But Czech Physicians Guild President David Rath told Czech Radio he would not want to succeed Mr David. He had been widely tipped as a suitable replacement in the health portfolio. The issue was not raised during his meeting with Premier Zeman late on Thursday.


The Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs expects that the rate of unemployment could reach 11 percent by the end of the year.

According to a study presented by Minister Vladimir Spidla to the Senate on Thursday, this means that the number of unemployed people could be 560, 000. The Czech Republic has a population of about 10 million.


Tennis -- and Czech Jana Novotna tripped out of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday. The Wimbledon champion fell 6-3 6-0 to little known Spaniard Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo in an uncharacteristically docile display to hand the Spaniard by far the biggest win in her modest career.

The shocked Novotna described her defeat as a nightmare and a total disaster.

Another Czech, Bohdan Ulihrach, secured a fourth round berth for himself.

Earlier on Thursday, fifth seed Andre Agassi cruised through 7-6 6- 2 6-0 against Czech Slava Dosedel to earn a place in the third round of the Australian Open.

And Petr Korda blasted away Spain's Julian Alonso 6-3 6-1 6-1. But the Czech champion had to endure taunts from spectators over the positive dope test that has cast a shadow over his title defence.


And finally, a look at the weather. Friday will be another dismally wet and cloudy day in the Czech Republic, with some scattered rain and snow showers in the mountains. We expect daytime highs between zero and four degrees Celsius.

At the weekend, more frontal systems will advance from the west across Czech territory. But we should see some sunshine after days of inversion and smog. Expect cloudy weather with local showers and some snowfalls in the mountains, especially on Sunday. Nighttime lows on Saturday and Sunday between minus four and zero Celsius one and plus three Celsius. Daytime temperatures from zero to four degrees above on both days.

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