News Friday, JANUARY 30th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: January 30, 1998, 0800 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

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

CZECH-MINISTERS-CLINTON

Czech Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz and his predecessor Miloslav Vyborny were optimistic on Thursday that President Clinton's sex scandal will not have any adverse effect on the ratification of their country's accession to NATO.

But Minister Lobkowicz admitted that the affair could significantly change the political climate in the United States.

In his State of the Union Address on Wednesday, President Clinton urged Congress to endorse NATO's enlargement by accepting three new members -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. He described all three nations as the new allies of the West.

The Czech defence minister was speaking at the first government session since the new premier Josef Tosovsky's cabinet won a vote of confidence in parliament on Wednesday.

CZECH-PREMIER

Czech Prime Minister Josef Tosovsky says he does not want to stay in politics after the early elections widely expected to take place in June. He said on Thursday he could either resume the post of central bank governor which he held until early last month or move into the private sector.

Tosovsky, whose popularity ratings are high, said he had accepted the post of premier on the assumption that his government would be temporary, designed to last only a few months.

CZECH-GOVERNMENT-APPLES

The cabinet on Thursday backed the Finance Ministry's calls for import quotas to be imposed on apples from EU countries. Food and Agriculture Minister Josef Lux said the annual quota was 24,000 metric tons.

Lux said that the Czech move was justified despite opposition from the European Union. He said it was the duty of the government to protect Czech national interests.

CZECH-COMMUNISTS-PRESIDENT

Czech Communist MPs say they will not attend President Vaclav Havel's swearing-in ceremony on Monday, at the start of his second and last term in office.

Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek said on Thursday this was because Havel had consistently refused to meet the party's officials, thereby violating his oath to respect the Constitution and serve the interests of all people.

Grebenicek accused Havel of discriminating against a sizable group of Czech population, and called him a political racist.

President Havel has repeatedly refused to meet representatives of two extremist parties -- the Communists and the far-right Republicans -- although both of them hold parliamentary seats.

The Republicans have sent complaint to the Constitutional Court citing irregularities of Havel's re-election last week.

EUROPE-CZECH-CONSTITUTION

A group of mainly communist and radical members of the Council of Europe on Thursday passed a declaration in Strasbourg condemning alleged constitutional violations in the Czech Republic.

The document, which the Council's representatives say is not official, was initiated by the far-right Czech Republicans after their leader, Miroslav Sladek, was taken into police custody because of refusing to heed court summons, and was prevented from voting in last week's presidential elections.

Mr Sladek ran against incumbent president Vaclav Havel.

Among the declaration's signatories are eight Russian Communists including their leader Gennady Zyuganov, two members of the separatist Italian Northern league, and a representative from San Marino.

NUCLEAR-ENVIRONMENT

Shareholders of the Czech utilities company CEZ on Thursday turned down environmentalist groups' demand that it suspend completion of the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia.

The activists have described the Temelin project as being too costly, as well as being environmentally harmful.

CEZ has admitted the project will not be completed on schedule by 1999, and that its estimated costs could exceed 85 billion crowns.

CZECH-US-AIRFORCE

A nine-member team of Czech Air Force pilots will make a training aerial survey overflight in United States airspace next weekend. CTK reports the 6,000-kilometre flight will be made on board a U.S. Air Force OC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. CTK said the project is part of the Open Skies programme.

TENNIS-CZECH

Tennis -- and jubilant Czech veteran Petr Korda celebrated his four-set semifinal win over Slovak Karol Kucera at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Thursday by cartwheeling down the court, adding a new twist to the trademark leap and scissor-kick he usually performs to mark victories.

The sixth-seed defeated his Slovak rival 6-1, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Korda will meet in the finals ninth-seed Marcelo Rios of Chile.

CZECH WEATHER

A quick look at the weather -- and after a foggy morning and night-time lows between minus nine and 13 degrees Celsius, we expect the afternoon highs much the same as on Thursday, that is from minus four to zero Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.