News Friday, SEPTEMBER 24th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Gross ready to give up parliamentary posts

Stanislav Gross, the deputy chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and the Social Democrat Party leader in the Lower House has announced that he is willing to give up both his posts. This after he admitted that during and after the election campaign in 1996 he used a mobile telephone owned by the private advertising agency which conducted the party's campaign. Gross said that he was given the phone and was not interested in who paid the bills. He said that he had already handed it back and added that he had agreed with the advertising agency on paying about 55,000 crowns for the use of the phone.

Zeman considers Blair's letter friendly warning

Czech Premier Milos Zeman considers a letter from British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a friendly warning and notification of the problems which the Roma exodus from the Czech Republic is causing to Britain. The letter which Blair sent to Zeman earlier this week contains a passage indicating that Britain may introduce visas for Czechs unless the Czech Republic takes measures to stop the exodus of Romanies to Britain. Zeman however told journalists that that he did not see any imminent danger of Britain imposing a visa requirement on Czechs. "The letter is very friendly, particularly because we know each other very well," Zeman said, adding that he would describe it as a friendly warning, but he did not rule out the possibility that if the mass migration of Romanies continued, Britain may adopt the measure.

Kavan sees greater potential for U.N.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is convinced that the United Nations could do more to achieve its objectives. He said at the 54th session of the U.N. General Assembly that this year had shown that the U.N. did not fully use its potential in order to meet the goals set in its Charter. He said that this year was a real benchmark for the United Nations. "NATO has demonstrated that it has both the functional mechanisms for crisis management and its capacities to manage humanitarian crises," Kavan said, but added that there is an obvious need for the Alliance's potential to be fully utilised through effective cooperation with the U.N. which has the ability to oversee the restoration of civil administration and infrastructure in conflict-hit areas. In Kavan's opinion, the concept of regional security in Europe is unimaginable without NATO's cooperation with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Western European Union and the Council of Europe.

Zieleniec envisages early election

Former Czech foreign minister and former deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party Josef Zieleniec believes that support for the ruling Social Democrats will eventually fall to below the ten-percent level, and this will lead to early elections. Zieleniec said that Zeman might be forced to hand over the Social Democrats leadership to someone else if the party support further declines. In such a case, Zieleniec stressed, the Social Democratic party would not have a legitimate right to rule the country, considering that it received more than 30 percent of the vote in the previous elections.

Police arrests Internet criminal

Prague police have arrested a 21-year old man, an employee of Ceska Sporitelna savings bank, who is suspected of offering confidential information about the bank's clients on the Internet. He was charged with misuse of information on data carriers and with unauthorised manipulation of private data. The police also seized a CD-ROM with the data. The man allegedly stood behind an anonymous email advertising the a complete database of Ceska Sporitelna's clients with all their details, including names, addresses, account number and a record of all banking transactions over a given period of time.

Anonymous letter threatens to kill communist leader

Communist leader Miroslav Grebenicek has received an anonymous letter. Its author threatens to kill Grebenicek. At a press conference on Thursday, Zuzka Rujbrova, an MP for the Communist Party, quoted the letter which showed that its author had seriously decided to shoot Grebenicek dead at the nearest occasion in order to stop the expansion of the Communist party in the Czech Republic. According to Rujbrova, this is not the first time someone has threatened to hurt or kill Communist party representatives. She attributes it to the atmosphere in the society stemming from the rising popularity of the party. According to the latest opinion polls, the if general election were held today, the Communists would come second with some 20 percent of the vote.

President meets finmin to discuss budget

President Vaclav Havel has met with Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik to discuss the draft state budget for the year 2000. Havel asked Mertlik about the concept of the budget in general rather than particular points. In Havel's opinion, the state budget should focus not only short-term issues but also long- term programmes concerning culture, and environmental and historic monument protection. Havel also called for the lowest possible level of resource redistribution.

Czech negotiator sees date set at Lisbon summit

The date of the next EU enlargement could be set at the Lisbon summit next June, Czech chief negotiator with the EU, Pavel Telicka told the Lower House of the Czech Parliament. In his opinion, however, the summit will not name the new applicant countries. Telicka also told the MPs that the European Commission's regular evaluation report on the Czech Republic's preparedness is likely to be mostly negative. He stressed that this year will be very important for the accession, but next year will be decisive, so there is enough time for improvement in the problematic areas.

Financial police to be approved by the end of year

The finance ministry is adding finishing touches to the law on financial police. The draft is to be discussed by the government by the end of this year. The financial police will be a special uniformed and armed force subordinate to the treasury. It should assist the customs and regular police in dealing with serious economic crime.

Nomura not to sell IPB as yet

Nomura Europe has not yet decided to sell its stake in Czech IPB bank, Nomura Europe chief executive Randall Dillard told reporters. He was reacting to media reports that Nomura was going to sell its stake in one of the largest Czech banks. However, he did confirm that Nomura was leading talks with potential buyers. Dillard said Nomura would not sell IPB while its market share in the Czech Republic was growing. According to an IPB spokeswoman, the sale of IPB to a world-renowned partner would further strengthen the bank's position on the market.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Friday, a cold front will be moving across the Czech Republic eastward, bringing partially cloudy whether with scattered showers. Afternoon highs should range from 21 to 25 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for the weekend: it should be more cloudy with occasional showers, with highest daytime temperatures between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.