News Friday, MARCH 24th, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. First we start with a bulletin of news read by Pauline Newman

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

Motejl - Resignation

Czech Justice minister Otakar Motejl has confirmed reports that he is considering resigning. He told journalists on Thursday evening that he has discussed the matter with President Havel but has not made a final decision.

The Justice Minister has not revealed his reasons for wanting to resign and there is speculation that he has not discussed it yet with Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Observers say that now Minster without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta has been dismissed, Otakar Motejl will be held responsible for the government's flagging anti-corruption campaign "Clean hands". They suggest this may be prompting him to consider resigning.

Chechens in UNHCR office - Demand Resettlement

A group of Chechen refugees occupying the Prague branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have spent the second night at the office. They say they want to be taken to another country where they would be safe. The 24 Chechens who moved into the office in Prague on Wednesday afternoon, claim they do not feel secure in the refugee camp in central Bohemia where they have been living. They claim to have been the victims of violence and death threats from Russian speaking refugees in the camp.

A spokeswoman for the office said that negotiations have so far proved mostly unsuccessful. She said the only positive result was an agreement that each family would have a chance to be heard. Following all day meetings between the two sides, the refugees turned down offers from the Czech Interior Ministry to be relocated in a guarded facility. A demonstration has in the meantime taken place in the Moravian city of Brno. Protestors placed barbed wire and slogans on the pavement outside the Russian Consulate. One of the organizers later said it was a protest against the violence and torture being carried out against the people of Chechnya by the Russian army.

Brezina - First day at the office

The newly appointed Minister without Portfolio, 27 year old Karel Brezina starts work on Friday. He will have less authority than his predecessor Jaroslav Basta, but as head of Government will be in charge of non-profit making organizations, the anti-drug commission and the committee for looking after the disabled. His appointment is part of a cabinet reshuffle demanded by the opposition Civic democrats in return for supporting the budget. Prime Minister Milos Zeman has also said he would replace the ministers of Transport and Communications, Interior and Regional Development. He has not yet revealed candidates for the remaining three ministerial posts. President Havel wished the new minister without Portfolio "political courage" on Thursday and Prime Minister Milos Zeman commented that Brezina is the youngest minister in the history of the country.

Nazi slaves - compensation

Negotiators working out details of a compensation deal for Nazi era slave workers and other victims said on Thursday in Berlin that they had decided how a $5 billion fund will be distributed. Czechs who were forced to work in Hitler's third Reich will receive over 400 million Deutsch marks. The Czech Foreign Office says the first payment which will be 35% of the sum, will be paid out this year.

Havel meets Supreme State Attorney

Czech President Vaclav Havel is set to meet supreme State attorney Marie Benesova. The two will discuss the fight against organized and white collar crime. This meeting is part of Havel's involvement in the assessment of the work being carried out by special police crime fighting units. A Presidential spokesman said the meeting is not connected to speculation that Benesova could replace Vaclav Grulich as minister of the Interior.

Mein Kampf - In bookstores

The German Embassy in Prague has sent a formal request to a Czech publishers which has released a Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf". The head of the publishing company said on Thursday that that he will turn the Embassy down. He continues to maintain that the book is a historical document. The book arrived at bookstores on Thursday, prompting protests from groups and individuals. The publication of the book without annotations, has elicited threats of legal action by human rights groups, former resistance fighters and Jewish organisations. The German Federal state of Bavaria has decided to use its ownership of the copyright of the book to halt publication of the Czech translation.

Geremek denies Spy theory

On Thursday Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek played down media speculation on a Czech-Polish spy affair. This comes after the Czech media published stories alleging that a Czech diplomat had worked as a spy in Poland. According to the Polish press, the same man was later turned down for the post of Czech military attaché in Poland. The press also alleged that Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told the Polish ambassador to Prague to keep information on the man classified. Both Zeman and the ambassador have since denied this. Speaking in Slovakia where he is currently on a visit, Bronislaw Geremek said on Thursday, the only factor which could have led the media to believe the spy theory were the personnel changes in diplomatic circles which took place when the two countries entered NATO.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Friday will see a foggy, cool start to the day with skies clearing up towards the afternoon. Although there will be some scattered showers during the day, temperatures are expected to range from 11 to 15 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to around zero.

And that's the end of the news