News Friday, SEPTEMBER 17th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Dita Asiedu, first let's take a look at the main headlines of the day:

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

Havel / Slovakia

Czech President Vaclav Havel on Friday began a two day visit to Slovkia. Talks with his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster and Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda are top of the agenda. Rudolf Schuster has already told journalists that he expects his meeting with Havel to focus on strengthening Czech - Slovak ties as well as on coming to an agreement on a meeting of Presidents from central European states. The two Presidents will also discuss Slovakia 's bid for membership of the European Union and NATO. Later in the day, the Czech President will attend a performance of Chekhov's play "Uncle Vanya". This is the third time, Havel and Schuster are meeting and experts say it could be a well timed opportunity aimed at improving Czech - Slovak dialogue which has lagged since the two states formally seperated in 1993 and began arguing about federal property.

Shelton / CR

Top U.S. Military Chief General Henry Shelton, said on Thursday in Prague, that the Czech Republic had made great progress in integrating into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. After speaking to Jiri Sedivy, the Czech Chief of Staff, General Shelton, praised the transformation of the Czech army, which has been reforming to meet NATO requirements. After speaking to Czech President Vaclav Havel, Shelton said the fact that the Czech army had received greater funding even though the country was in an economic crisis, was a sure sign that the Czech Republic honours its committments. Later he commented on the situation in Kosovo, saying the demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army had not gone as fast as he would like, but that he still expected the KLA to meet NATO's target on Sunday. "We fully anticipate that the KLA will comply" Shelton said, declining to answer" hypothetical" questions about what NATO would do should the deadline not be met.

Fischer / Apology

Newly elected Senator Vaclav Fischer has sent a written apology to the Civic Democratic Party and its Chairman Vaclav Klaus. In his letter, Mr Fischer apologised for connecting the party to various abusive bilboards which went up all over Prague during the recent Senate election campaign aimed at destroying his reputation in the eyes of the voters. He added that he would close the investigations into who was responsible for the posters. Mr Fischer's spokeswoman told journalists on Thursday, that the newly elected Senator, now expects an apology from the Civic Democratic Party, who accused him of throwing away millions on his election campaign and of having the support of the communist party.

The Czech Senate met for the first time on Thursday since the recent by-election. Problems arose almost immediately, after Vaclav Fischer was outvoted in his desire to take up a position on the Committee for Foreign Affairs. Chairwoman of Senators Club for the Freedom Union and Civic Democratic Party, Jitka Seitlova, called for a break to the meeting, after another Senator proposed that Vaclav Fischer sit on the Constitutional Legal Committee, in spite of the fact that Mr Fischer believes that a seat on the Foreign committee would be more suited to his abilities. The decision will be made at the next meeting of the Senate. The upper house of the Czech Parliament also voted to send a Czech field hospital out to Turkey to help the victims of August's earthquake. The hospital will cost a total of 164 million Czech crowns and will stay in the region for four months.

Prague / Prodi

Czech Premier Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan have sent telegrams to Romano Prodi congratulating him on his appointment at the head head of the European Commission. In his telegram, Milos Zeman assured Romano Prodi that the Czech Republic would work at entering the European Union as soon as possible.

Czech politicians have generally welcomed Wednesday's decision by the European Parliament confirming the new executive Commission headed by Romano Prodi. They see Prodi as a guarrantee of faster expansion of the European Union. Chairman of the Czech Parliament and leader of the Civic Democratic Party Vaclav Klaus said that the appointment would stabilise the European Union and its enlargement plans. Klaus praised Romano Prodi saying he was a man who saw enlargement politically not bureaucratically.

A Social Democrat MP echoed this view, saying Prodi is one of the stars on the European political field and praised his views on rapid EU expansion.

Visas / Bahamas

The Czech Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it had no idea as to why a visa requirement has been introduced for Czechs visiting the British Commonwealth Bahamas. A spokesman said the Ministry sees no connection between the migration of Czech Romanies to Britain and Wednesday's ruling on Visas for Czechs. He added that the number of Czechs visiting the Bahamas was negligble.

Refugees / CR

Czech Police have arrested 53 refugees in Prague on Thursday. Most of the refugees were from Sri Lanka and were taken to camps in Moravia. A spokesman for the police told journalists that the refugees intend to apply for asylum in the Czech republic. He added that the Sri Lankans had come to Prague via Russia in a lorry and that the person who smuggled them across the border, told them that they were in Germany.

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

Although we're in for a bright start to the day on Friday, skies will be cloudy, with the possibility of scattered showers. Temperatures during the day, will range from 20 to 24 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to 10 degrees Celsius.

I'm Dita Asiedu and that's the end of the news.