News Friday, OCTOBER 23rd, 1998

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Good morning, I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.

HAVEL-UK-PINOCHET

Czech President Vaclav Havel says the arrest of Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet "did not move him to tears."

"I don't weep," Havel was quoted as saying.

Speaking shortly before his departure from a four-day state visit to the United Kingdom on Thursday, Havel said the arrest of Pinochet was exclusively a British affair and it was not for him to comment.

Our correspondent says that the Czech president made his views on Pinochet plainly known in 1994, when he distanced himself from the general after he was invited by a czech foreign trade company to visit Prague.

In London, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Thursday urged the immediate release of General Pinochet.

CZECH-US-AMBASSADOR

The U.S. Senate has confirmed the appointment of John Shattuck as America's new ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Mr Shattuck, who succeeds Ambassador Jenonne Walker in the Prague post, is a human rights expert with the State Department.

Ambassador Walker will formally end her mission in the Czech Republic next month. She has served in Prague since August 1995.

The new envoy said he sees the Czech Republic as a dynamic country which has given support to the United States over a number of crucial issues from Bosnia to Iraq.

CZECH-OPPOSITION-POLITICS

Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml has dismissed reports about a planned pre-election coalition between the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Christian Democrats as mere speculations which he said were detrimental to his right-of-centre party.

The Freedom Union, together with the Christian Democrats and two other fledgling centre-right parties, have recently stricken a deal under which they will contest together the upcoming Senate and community elections, scheduled for the middle of next month.

But there have been indications lately that the Christian Democrats might support a deficit-ridden draft budget presented by the Social Democrats but rejected by parliament earlier this month.

Out correspondent says this could practically close the file on the new coalition, united only by its rejection of the policies pursued by the two main Czech parties, the Social Democrats and their chief rivals, the ODS of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus.

CZECH-KOSOVO-BRITAIN

Neither the British nor the American embassy in Prague has received asylum applications from any of the Kosovo Albanians who have fled the fighting in their country and arrived in the Czech Republic lately. Both embassies confirmed this on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Czech immigration police detained two groups of Kosovars, some of whom said they planned to contact the two embassies in Prague.

The refugees, intercepted at several border crossings, carried no passports or other documents. They were advised to contact the Yugoslav embassy in Prague, which none of them has done to date.

CZECH-BORDERS-REFUGEES

The Czech police said on Thursday that over 30,000 people have illegally crossed state borders into this country in the first nine months of the year -- almost 2,000 more than in the whole of 1997.

Police Spokeswoman Ivana Moosova said most of them had crossed from Slovakia. Most of the illegal refugees were from Yugoslavia, Romania and Afghanistan, she said.

CZECH-TOWN-MAYOR-HAVEL

The Mayor of the northern Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem has invited President Havel for a visit to see for himself the full truth about the ethnic situation in his municipality, which the president criticised in a radio interview late last week.

President Havel was critical about Usti's plans to fence off an orderly neighbourhood from tenement rows inhabited mainly by ethnic Gypsies or Romanies.

Havel labelled Mayor Ladislav Hruska a racist and accused him of tarnishing the international image of the Czech Republic. The mayor has said he seeks an apology from the president and stressed that it takes two to a dialogue, suggesting lack of good will from the Romanies.

CZECH-BEER-AWARD

In beer news today, Budvar of Ceske Budejovice was on Thursday voted the imported lager of the year at the Norwegian Beer Festival in Oslo.

The Norwegian firm Boulevard Beverage Company told the CTK news agency that Budvar -- not to be mistaken for its poor American ersatz Bud, was one of the best beers in the world.

The Budvar brewery exports its beers to more than 50 countries. The best-selling Czech brand contains no chemical additives, and is made with hops from Zatec, malts from Moravia, and water pumped from the company's own artesian wells.

CZECH-TENNIS

Now tennis -- and Martin Damm of the Czech Republic on Thursday beat Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of the one-million-dollar Czech Indoor men's tennis tournament.

Other results -- Slovakia's Jan Kroslak beat Frenchman Guillaume Raoux 7-5, 6-2; and Wayne Black from Zimbabwe beat Germany's David Prinosil 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

CZECH-WEATHER

Finally, a look at the weather in the Czech Republic:

Friday morning will be mostly foggy, with scattered rains coming from the west. But afternoon temperatures should be unseasonably high, from 15 to 18 degrees Celsius.

An outlook for the weekend -- and we should brace ourselves for a cold front with sporadic showers and daytime highs between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius on Saturday, and from nine to 13 Celsius on Sunday.

And that's the end of the news.