News Friday, OCTOBER 16th, 1998

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Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-PRAGUE-FARMERS

The City of Prague may be bracing itself for vast disruptions as Czech farmers threaten to block vital roads as part of their planned protests over the import of subsidised agricultural products.

The Chamber of Agriculture has given the government until Monday to take measures to stem the flow of products from EU countries.

Farmers' leaders say the government's agricultural policy is detrimental to both farmers and the general public.

Farmers' unions said on Thursday that Prague would be totally cut off from the rest of the world, with all main access roads and railways blocked by angry farmers.

CZECH-FINANCE-BUDGET

The Czech Ministry of Finance has begun reviewing the government draft of the state budget for next year, which parliament ordered completely reworked on Wednesday.

Spokeswoman Jana Vargova says the spending side of the budget will now be restricted because parliament has failed to endorse an increase in pension insurance rates.

Vargova said on Thursday that deficit financing would form a separate chapter of the budget, and growth-stimulating measures will be clearly defined.

CZECH-HAVEL-BELGIUM

Czech President Vaclav Havel and First Lady Dagmar Havlova were received in Brussels on Thursday by the Belgian royal couple at the start of a three months long Czech cultural presentation, Europalia 98.

Observers in Brussels say that King Albert II and Queen Paola rarely give audiences to visitors from abroad.

Europalia is a prestigious international event and the Czech Republic has in the past been criticised because of its inability to find suitable sponsors of its first major presentation in Western Europe.

HAVEL-NOBEL

Meanwhile, President Havel, who was often tipped as a prominent contender for this year' Nobel Peace Prize for his role in leading Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution" after the collapse of communism nine years ago, seems to have faded as a favourite even though 1998 is the 30th anniversary of the Prague Spring reform movement.

Sources close to the Norwegian Nobel Committee said on Thursday that the award will probably go to partners in the Northern Ireland peace deal. But it is not clear how the prize might be split among rival politicians.

The Oslo daily Aftenbladet has reported that Havel and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, both of whom are known to have been nominated, are out of the running.

The winners will be announced on Friday at 10 o'clock UTC.

CZECH-HOUSE-REFERENDUM

The Czech lower house on Thursday passed by the narrowest possible margin into the second reading a bill on referendum, tabled by a group of Social Democrat MPs.

The draft would empower the president of the republic to call a referendum on issues such as entering alliances with other states.

The house had earlier passed into a second reading a Communist motion proposing that the conditions of calling a plebiscite be specified by the Czech Constitution.

CZECH-FUND-RESIGN

The newly elected Presidium of the Czech National Property Fund on Thursday accepted the resignation of the Fund's chairman Roman Ceska.

He was replaced by his first deputy Petr Cermak.

Ceska announced his resignation from the powerful body, which oversees privatisation, shortly after the Social Democrats came to power in last June's parliamentary elections.

CZECH-GERMAN-AMBASSADOR

Germany's ambassador to Prague Michael Steiner is to become a foreign policy adviser to his country's next chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

But it was announced in Prague on Thursday that Mr Steiner will continue to pay attention to relations between his country and Germany, which he said he was optimistic about.

SLOVAKIA-IRELAND-VISA

Ireland followed Britain's example on Thursday by reimposing a visa requirement for Slovak citizens as of next Monday.

Dublin explained the move by the need to coordinate its immigration policy with that of Britain, which announced the reimposition of a visa requirement for Slovaks earlier this week.

The British Ambassador to Prague said a few days ago that Czechs could also be required to present British entry visas if Prague fails to stem the flow of Czech asylum seekers in Britain.

CZECH-WEATHER

Friday will be a generally cloudy day in the Czech Republic, with scattered showers, morning fogs and maximum daytime temperatures from 11 to 14 degrees Celsius.

An outlook for the weekend -- warm air will pour into Central Europe from the southeast but this will change on Sunday when a cold front will advance across out territory and to the east.

Saturday's temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees and on Sunday, we expect daytime maxima from 12 to 16 Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.