News Friday, JULY 24th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: July 24, 1998, 0900 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top Czech stories this hour, now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-FLOODS

At least three people died and another two were missing after rain-swollen rivers flooded the eastern Czech district of Rychnov nad Kneznou early on Thursday. Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy has visited the area, where damage runs into tens of millions of crowns.

A flood alert was declared after heavy rainfall made small rivers and creeks swell. But the situation has improved steadily overnight. The rain has stopped and the water levels are coming down, showing destruction on roads, railways and homes.

Dozens of inhabitants and several children's summer camps have been evacuated. Police and army teams equipped with rescue technologies and helicopters have been sent to the flooded areas.

The new Czech Premier Milos Zeman said on Thursday his cash- strapped Social Democratic government planned to allocate monetary aid from the state budget reserves. He said he was going to visit the flooded areas soon.

Earlier this week, floods in eastern Slovakia killed at least 40 people, with dozens of people still missing.

Last summer, extensive flooding killed more than 100 people in the eastern Czech Republic and southern Poland.

HAVEL-HEALTH

Czech President Vaclav Havel is in hospital for preliminary examinations ahead of an intestinal operation early next week.

He will undergo an operation to remove a bag bridging a gap in his intestine that was inserted after emergency surgery to remove about 30 cm of his large intestine in April while on vacation in Austria.

Havel has spent most of his time since returning to the Czech Republic recovering at a presidential villa west of Prague. But despite being restricted by the illness, he has been fit enough to play an active role in the formation of a new government following a June election.

On Wednesday, the president swore in the new centre-left Social Democrat cabinet of Prime Minister Milos Zeman, as well as appointing outgoing premier Josef Tosovsky as central bank governor and Eliska Wagnerova as chief justice of the Supreme Court.

CZECH-COMMUNIST-HOUSE

The chairman of the Communist parliamentary party, Vojtech Filip, on Thursday urged other parties to drop the adjectives "democratic" and "civic" from their names.

He said they had no right to call themselves that way until they stopped rejecting proportional representation of parties in the leadership and committees of the lower house.

Czech communists have been barred from executive posts in parliament on the grounds that they are undemocratic and unrepenting. But they are the third-strongest party in the new parliament.

Filip urged parliament to respect the constitution and laws based on the free competition of political ideas.

The Social Democrats gained the chairmanship of three more lower house committees and the Civic Democratic party gained one on Thursday.

CZECH-FINMIN-BUDGET

Czech Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda said on Thursday that he would aim to prepare a balanced state budget for next year.

Svoboda, who was sworn in along the new Social Democrat cabinet on Wednesday, also told journalists at his inaugural news conference that he saw room for an easing of central bank policy.

He said the stabilisation of the economy, which began last year with austerity measures taken by the cabinet and the central bank, should end next year, paving the way for economic growth.

CZECH-TAXI-MAFIA-DEATH

The boss of a Prague taxi-drivers' mafia was shot and killed in eastern Prague by an unknown assailant on Thursday.

Prague police said that Ivan Hribal, head of a follow-up cartel to the infamous Thorges association, was found dead and a hunt was on for his killers.

Thorges gained notoriety for its unscrupulous methods, which included taking bribes from taxi drivers in attractive parts of the city.

CZECH-WEATHER

A look at the weekend's weather -- we expect scattered showers and thunderstorms, early morning lows between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius, and afternoon highs from 23 to 27 degrees on both days.

And that's the end of the news.