News Friday, SEPTEMBER 18th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: September 18, 1998 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

Hello from Prague. I am Libor Kubik in Studio 20 and we begin as usual with a brief news update on Czech affairs.

HAVEL-U.S.

Czech President Vaclav Havel today ends his state visit to the United States.

The agenda of his last day in Washington includes a meeting with Czech journalists and a visit to the Millennium 2000 Jazz Festival held under the auspices of the First Lady, Hillary Clinton.

Our correspondent says that Havel, who has recently undergone a series of emergency operations, is reported to be in good health, having no problems meeting his official schedule.

CZECH-US-RADIO

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, who is on President Havel's entourage, is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today to discuss planned broadcasts from Prague to Iran and Iraq.

The programmes are to be prepared by the Prague-based, U.S.- funded station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Kavan has hinted that the Social democrat cabinet of Prime Minister Milos Zeman will give a go-ahead to the plan, in spite of its initial wavering.

CZECH-IRAN-MINISTRY

The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday condemned last month's killing of Iranian diplomats by Taleban militants in the Afghan city of Mazer-e-Sharif. In a statement to the Czech news agency CTK, the ministry expressed condolences to the families of those killed and to the people of Iran.

The Czech ministry described the killings as a crime against humanity and a flagrant violation of international law and the Vienna Conventions.

The Taleban officially admitted last week that Iranian diplomats and one journalists were killed during last month's fighting in the city. The bodies of seven Iranians were transported to Teheran on Tuesday.

Iranian-Afghan tensions escalated dramatically after Teheran despatched tens of thousands of troops to hold an exercise near the Afghan border.

CZECH-BUDGET

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus held a rare meeting on Thursday over the Social Democrat government's draft budget, which must be presented in parliament by the end of the month.

Klaus, the leader of the main opposition ODS party, said he had told Mr Zeman that the ODS was strongly opposed to the proposed budget deficit of nearly 27 billion crowns.

Klaus predicted the deficit would actually be much higher because some of the proposed spending must be approved by the lower house.

The minority Social Democrat government has only 74 seats in the 200-member House of Deputies.

CZECH-HOUSE-PAY

The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Thursday endorsed the proposal by the Senate that state administration employees be stripped of their fourteenth salaries this year.

In case the motion is passed by the full house's October meeting, fourteenth monthly salaries will not be paid to the members of parliament, judges, state attorneys and members of the presidium of the State Securities Commission.

Our correspondent says the move, which could help save 230 million crowns, enjoys wide support in the lower house.

CZECH-BANK-CURRENCY

National Bank Vice Governor Pavel Kysilka has said he considers the Czech crown's value over-rated.

He told journalists on Thursday that interest rates could have ben much lower today if sound budget policies had been applied.

Kysilka said he is convinced that inflation will be lower next year, but he refused to elaborate.

CZECH-TOWN-CRIME

Two ethnic Albanians from Kosovo stand accused of causing grievous bodily harm and complicity in the North Bohemian town of Varnsdorf.

Regional Police Investigator Bohumil Kotas told Czech Radio on Thursday that the two men were members of a gang who fired shots into a crowd of Romanies a few weeks ago. A 33-year-old Roman man was killed in the incident.

CZECH-FLOODS-SUBSIDE

The swollen rivers in the south and northeastern parts of the Czech Republic have been returning to their banks and hydro- meteorologists forecast on Thursday that this trend will continue. The only rise predicted is for the river Elbe.

CZECH-WEATHER

Talking about the weather -- there won't be much to write home about tomorrow and at the weekend.

We expect some rain across the whole Czech Republic, daytime temperatures on Saturday between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius and on Sunday up to 19 degrees. And a miserable seven degrees at elevations above 1,000 metres.

And that's the end of the news.