News Friday, JULY 17th, 1998

Radio Prague E News Date: 17.7.98 Written / read by: Pauline Newman

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now a look at the news in full:

Czech President Vaclav Havel is set to name Milos Zeman Premier designate on Friday evening. A spokesman said this is subject to the current Parliamentary session ending on time. Social Democrat chief Milos Zeman went to visit Vaclav Havel on Thursday afternoon to discuss candidates for ministerial posts. After speaking to the President for over two hours, Milos Zeman, said Vaclav Havel had accepted the list of candidates without making any concrete objections. He later corrected himself saying " I wouldn't say the President does not have any objections". The problem was that Zeman's list of candidates approved by the Social Democrats, includes the names of two politicians the President would rather not see in the next government. The two most controversial figures are Jan Kavan and Vaclav Grulich, who want to become Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Interior respectively. Kavan is suspected of having collaborated with the former secret police in the past and Grulich of having ties with Russian diplomats. Both deny these claims. The President's office, however, said Vaclav Havel is concerned that the public may not accept the two politicians.

MP's are expected to elect a chairman of Parliament this evening. There are two candidates, Vaclav Klaus, leader of the Civic Democratic Party, the ODS, and Stanislav Volak, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the outgoing government. Vaclav Klaus told journalists on Thursday, that he does not take Mr Volak's candidature for Chairman of Parliament seriously adding that he personally expects to win. Klaus has been tipped as the likely winner since he should receive approximately 137 votes, compared to Volak's predicted 38. Vaclav Klaus even went to the Parliament building on Thursday to have a look at some of the conference rooms used by the Chairman of Parliament and also allegedly tried out his chair, before confidently informing journalists that he was not at all nervous about the election. Although he appealed on Thursday to Christian Democrat chief Josef Lux and Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml to support his candidature for post of Chairman of Parliament, both decided to vote for the other candidate Stanislav Volak. They also agreed that they would like to see five deputy chairmen of Parliament and not four as advocated by the ODS and the Social Democrats. Finance Minister Ivan Pilip resigned on Thursday. He explained his motives later at a press conference, saying that he wanted to stand for election as deputy chairman of Parliament.

Leader of the centrist Christian Democrats Josef Lux and his Freedom Union counterpart, Jan Ruml met on Thursday. They discussed their so-called "strategic partnership" which opposes the collaboration between Vaclav Klaus's ODS and Milos Zeman's Social Democrats. Both Lux and Ruml feel they have been edged off the political scene by an agreement signed between Klaus and Zeman, which they are calling a "hidden grand coalition". They also took the opportunity to put an end to rumours circulating in political circles that the two paries are undergoing internal problems and seeking to elect new leaders. Jan Ruml told journalists that this information comes straight from the Civic democratic Party and the Social democrats.

Scientists say Prague has fortunately, not yet been affected by the usual chemical smog for this time of year. This would appear to be the direct result of the slightly cooler weather this summer. Although chemical smog appears in reaction to pollution it also needs prolonged sunshine. So far specialists say the situation looks promising.

Members of CEFTA, the Central European Free Trade Agreement, are set to accept Bulgaria entering their alliance on Friday. Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Pavel Dvorak will sign the contract on behalf of the Czech Republic. A ministry spokesman said on Thursday that as a result of the agreement, which will come into effect on the 1st January 1999, all industrial duties will be dropped. Bulgaria is set to become the sixth member of the central European exclusive club.

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather: A ridge of low pressure moving towards the Czech republic from the west, means more of the cloudy, damp, muggy weather we've been having recently. Temperatures will range from 19 to 23 degrees celsius, dropping to as low as 10 degrees overnight.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's all from the newsroom this hour.