News Friday, MARCH 05th, 1999

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


Czech Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda vehemently denies reports about his imminent resignation over a potentially explosive scandal.

Svoboda and his former advisor Barbora Snopkova are being investigated by the police in connection with a financial operation which has lead to the liquidation of a once-prosperous producer of babies' prams.

Police are suspicious of a transaction of assets from the Melnik- based Liberta plant to a private firm owned by Svoboda and Snopkova.


Czech President Vaclav Havel has proposed that a peace conference on Kosovo be held inside the troubled Serb province.

Speaking in Dijon on the last day of his state visit to France, Havel said the hostile parties should be brought to the round table in Kosovo, together with officials from Albania and Macedonia.

Havel said the talks should be held under the auspices of the United Nations, and NATO's military contingent in the province should include also troops from the Contact Group and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- the OSCE.


Lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus has strongly rejected President Havel's idea of turning the European Union into a federation of states.

Havel raised the idea during his visit to France earlier in the week.

Klaus, who is a former premier and leader of the mainstream opposition Civic Democratic Party, said on Thursday that President Havel had failed to consult his ideas with the government and the ministry of foreign affairs.

Mr Klaus told the CTK news agency that he was against the concept of the United States of Europe.

President Havel had proposed that the EU adopt a constitution and create a second chamber of the existing European Parliament.

On Thursday, the Czech president said it would be good if the EU specified a date for its planned enlargement. Havel mentioned the year 2003.


The Czech Republic's Social Democrat Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on Thursday he would encourage his party to discuss his successor at its congress next month.

Mr Zeman said he feared an internal split in the ruling Social Democratic Party. He said he was too tired to contest re-election in the year 2001 and wanted to leave top politics by the year 2002.

He mentioned the party's statutory vice chairman Vladimir Spidla as his potential successor.


The acting chief of the Czech civilian counterintelligence agency BIS, Mr Jaroslav Jira, admitted on Thursday that relations between his agency and British secret services are cool because of the recent disclosure of the identity of an MI6 agent resident in Prague.

But Jira said an improvement in mutual relations was to be expected within a few weeks' time.

Earlier this year, the name of the British operative appeared in the Czech press. The reports identified him as the author of a complaint which in January led to the sacking of the BIS chief Karel Vulterin.

The MI6 operative had reportedly complained of a sloppy performance on the part of BIS in connection with the defection of the Iraqi consul in the Czech Republic.


Russia's ultra-nationalist member of parliament Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Thursday called for halting natural gas deliveries to the Czech Republic because of its membership of NATO.

Mr Zhirinovsky said in Moscow that the deliveries of Russian gas should be cut off one day after the Czech Republic becomes a fully fledged member of the Atlantic alliance.

He was speaking at a session of the State Duma -- the lower house of the Russian parliament.

The Czech Republic, together with Hungary and Poland, will become NATO members on March 12 when documents relating to their accession to the Washington Treaty will be deposited in the city of Independence in Missouri.


A prominent Czech journalist has appealed to President Havel to halt the prosecution of the anarchist who blew a whistle and set light to a card with NATO's logo during a ceremony at Prague Castle last month at which the president signed instruments of ratification of his country's accession to NATO.

Jazz Section's Karel Masita said the young radical, Jan Krecek, had only vented his personal opposition against NATO in a place where he was perfectly able to do so.

Krecek, who was briefly held after the incident and accused of hooliganism, says the charges brought against him are tendentious and political. He was present at the ceremony as an accredited journalist.


Now a look at the weather -- and after a brief spell of unseasonably warm weather we in the Czech Republic should brace ourselves for more cold.

Friday's morning temperatures will be from two to six degrees Celsius, daytime highs between six and 10 degrees above zero.

At the weekend, a low-pressure area will bring more rain and snow showers to Central Europe. We expect early morning lows around freezing point, and daytime maxima between three and seven Celsius.

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