News Friday, OCTOBER 30th, 1998

Welcome to Radio Prague, I am Libor Kubik. Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail.


The Czech Interior Ministry said on Thursday it was analysing documents about former Vienna mayor Helmut Zilk, who has been accused of collaborating with the Czechoslovak Communist secret police 30 years ago.

His alleged connection with the StB in the late 1960s led President Vaclav Havel to withdraw the "Order of the White Lion" -- the top Czech honour for foreigners -- which was to have been given to Zilk during National Day ceremonies on Wednesday.

Mr Zilk has vehemently denied any cooperation with the Czechoslovak StB.

The affair has sparked a cross-border row involving Prague Castle, Zilk, German journalists, Austrian authorities and Czech politicians critical of Havel.


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is launching its broadcasts to Iraq and Iran from Prague today, according to the press section of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

The American Broadcasting Board of Governors announced the plan a few days ago.

The Czech news agency CTK was not able to obtain an official statement from the American-funded radio station.

RFE had often in the past avoided specifying the exact date when it would launch broadcasts to Iran and Iraq or the location in Prague from which it would supervise these broadcasts.

Early last month, the Czech government challenged the RFE plan to produce these broadcasts from a villa in western Prague or, alternately, from the station's headquarters in the city centre.

The reserved attitude of the Social Democratic cabinet towards the broadcasts from Prague has been causing worries in Washington over the past few weeks.


Fierce winds which have battered the Czech Republic for three days killed one person, injured several and caused widespread damage throughout the country.

The gusts, which at time topped 100 km per hour, caused a tree to fall onto a car on Prague's largest highway on Wednesday, killing a passenger and severely injuring the driver and a child.

There have been numerous reports of house-tops being stripped away and trees uprooted. Several mountainous areas have gone on flood alert because of heavy rainfall.


The wind also blew away part of the controversy over a huge campaign billboard for mid-November Senate elections erected on Prague's Letna Hill where a giant statue of the late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin once stood.

Former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus's party faced large fines for the unlicensed construction of the 20-metre tall sign, visible throughout Prague, showing a shadow of current Premier Milos Zeman peering over Klaus's shoulder.

The wind blew down the giant Klaus, causing one commentator to quip that in this clash between the cults of personality, Zeman may have a more direct line to God.


Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on Thursday welcomed the forming of a new government in the neighbouring Slovakia by describing the new coalition as a force dedicated to building a democratic Slovak Republic.

He said that the parties who on Wednesday signed a coalition agreement were led by the common desire to reduce the democratic deficit which had caused Slovakia to be excluded from the ranks of front-runners for membership in NATO and the European Union.

Minister Kavan said Prague would accord all-round support to Bratislava's bid to join the European structures and wished for above-standard relations with Slovakia.


Deputy Defence Minister Petr Tax said on Thursday that the government will decide early next year whether the Czech Air Force will obtain Western-built supersonic jets to replace its ageing Russian-built fleet of MIG and Sukhoi fighter planes.

Our correspondent says the government was originally expected to announce its decision by the end of last year, in order for the new planes to become operational by the year 2003.

Air Force chief Ladislav Klima believes that the Czech Republic will need at least 12 new supersonic jets by then, in addition to 72 new Alca advanced light combat aircraft being developed by the domestic producer Aero Vodochody. But funding remains the chief problem, according to Czech defence sources.


The Czech National Bank predicts the net inflation to reach about four percent by the end of the year.

The bank's officials said on Thursday that the consumer price index should be slightly over eight percent, and the average yearly inflation rate will be under 11 percent.


On a lighter and almost titillating note now -- Erotic and beauty products of every colour and description will be shown the Venus '98 fair which opens in Prague on November 12.

Petr Novotny from the organising firm City Relax told correspondents on Thursday that the fair's side-event programme will feature several notable porn stars, as well as comedians to offset the gravity of the moment.

But there will be no live sex performed on the stage, apart from the usual strip shows, the organisers said.

Oh, did I say titillating -- well, I didn't quite mean it.


Finally, the weather report: Friday will be a cold and wet day with scattered snow showers in the mountains and gushing wind. Maximum daytime temperatures will be from six to 10 degrees Celsius.

The weekend will be very much the same in the Czech Republic, I am afraid, with temperatures between six and 10 Celsius in daytime and three to seven at night.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the news.