News Friday, JANUARY 23rd, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: January 23, 1998 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top stories from Prague. Now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-HAVEL-GOVERNMENT

Czech President Vaclav Havel was optimistic on Thursday about the new cabinet's prospects in a parliamentary confidence vote next week.

He said after talks with party leaders and Premier Josef Tosovsky a majority of the participants would recommend to their parliamentary deputies to declare their support for confidence in the current government.

But Milos Zeman, leader of the opposition Social Democrats, whose votes are seen as crucial in next Tuesday's vote, said his party's support for the Tosovsky's government was still conditional.

The Social Democrats, who appear to hold the balance of power for the vote, have threatened not to back the government if it commits itself to key privatisation projects and to deregulation of state-controlled rents and household energy prices.

Ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party also indicated it may not back the Tosovsky cabinet.

GOVERNMENT-TRUST-POLL

Meanwhile, four Czechs in five say they trust Tosovsky's government, according to a poll conducted by the private STEM agency.

STEM said on Thursday the prime minister has the support of 84 percent of those polled.

Just under 80 percent of the respondents said they think Tosovsky will better succeed as premier than his predecessor Klaus, whose cabinet resigned late in November.

CZECH-REPS-TRIAL

The far-right Republican Party's leader Miroslav Sladek is to stand trial on Friday on charges of inciting ethnic and racial hatred.

His trial will take place in Prague's Pankrac Detention Prison, where he has been held in custody since January 7 because of dodging court summons served him by the police.

Our correspondent says security in the court room will be tight, with only journalists and members of Dr. Sladek's party being allowed into the compound.

The verdict is expected on Friday.

CZECH-DEFENCE-MINISTER

Czech Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz says his country's armed forces should become roughly comparable with NATO's within the next 10 years.

Speaking before the parliamentary defence and security committee on Thursday, Lobkowicz said his government considers Czech membership in NATO its top priority.

The Czech Republic, together with Hungary and Poland, is widely expected to become a member of the alliance in 1999.

HAVEL-CENTRAL-SUMMIT

Czech President Vaclav Havel arrives in the ancient Slovak town of Levoca on Friday at the start of a two-day summit conference of the heads of Central European nations. This meeting will focus on the themes of civic society as a hope for a united Europe.

Havel personally started the tradition four years ago when hosting the first such conference in the Czech town of Litomysl.

CZECH-GERMAN-FUND

A senior Czech official says Czech victims of Nazism could receive partial compensation by the end of March. Deputy Foreign Minister Jan Winkler said on Thursday he expects a new Czech-German future fund to start functioning by then.

The joint fund, designed to remain operational for 10 to 12 years, is to receive German contributions to the tune of 140 million Deutsche marks, and the Czech side has undertaken to pay 440 million crowns.

SENATOR-DRINK-DRIVE-PAPER

Senate's Mandate and Immunity Committee said on Thursday it will investigate Social Democratic Senator Jan Kavan, who caused a traffic accident in the early morning hours of Thursday, badly damaging his car and several other vehicles in the incident. There were no casualties.

The popular evening newspaper Vecernik Praha reports that Kavan, a former dissident, has admitted to being under the influence of alcohol. But he refused to provide a blood sample citing his parliamentary immunity.

The paper wrote Kavan had attempted to walk away from the scene but was stopped by passers-by until the arrival of the police.

Kavan, a former student activist during the Prague Spring of 1968, returned from a British exile shortly after the Velvet Revolution. He has had to fight frequent allegations that he collaborated with the Communist secret police, the StB, in his dissident years.

PALACH-PSYCHIATRIST-COURT

A Prague court ruled on Thursday that Czech Public Television must pay 100,000 crowns in damages to a psychiatrist who the station said had collaborated with the Communist authorities while treating Jan Palach -- the Czech student who burned himself to death in January 1969 in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.

The specialist, Zdenka Kmunickova, made several tape recordings of Palach's voice shortly before he died in a Prague hospital. The television had alleged the tapes were later used by the Communist regime to discredit its opponents.

RADIO PRAGUE-DIRECTOR

Czech Radio is looking for a new boss of its external service, Radio Prague. Applicants for this exciting job should have a good command of two world languages and some experience with radio broadcasting.

Radio Prague currently broadcasts in five languages on short waves, via satellite, on FM, and on the Internet.

The Czech Foreign Ministry plans to reduce the scope of languages significantly by the middle of the year, leaving only Czech and English broadcasts in their original extent.

Applications are invited until February 5. The winning applicant should assume his duties in April.

Radio Prague began scheduled transmissions on the international wave bands in August 1936.

BANK-LOMBARD

In economic news, the Czech central bank has lowered is Lombard rate from 23 percent to 19 percent.

Economist Zdenek Tuma has told CTK the reduction should be seen as a signal for the market without having any direct effect on it. He said that the security repurchase rate was much more important for its effect on markets.

At the beginning of December the central bank attempted to support the crown by raising the weekly repo rate to 19 percent and the two-weekly repo rate to 18.5 percent. The move kept the Czech currency below 20 crowns per one Deutsche mark.

CZECH-WEATHER

Finally, the weather. Friday will be a cloudy and wet day, further some snow showers are highly probable across the whole Czech territory.

Afternoon highs from minus two to plus two degrees Celsius, and below freezing all day in the mountains.

And that's the end of the news.