News Monday, APRIL 27th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: April 27, 1998, 0700 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top stories from Prague, I am Libor Kubik, now the news in more detail.

CZECH-MINORITIES-RIGHTS

Government Minister without Portfolio Vladimir Mlynar admits that a Czech human rights watch group has a point when saying that Romanies and other ethnic groups are discriminated against in this country.

Mlynar, who is also a government appointee on minorities' affairs, said on Czech Television on Sunday evening that a Czech Helsinki Committee report, released last week, was well composed and balanced.

Mlynar said he would outline his own correction programme within the next six weeks. His plan envisages preferential granting of up to five percent of state contracts to firms appointed by the government committee on Romany affairs.

The Czech Republic has been repeatedly criticised for its handling of ethnic minority affairs.

HAVEL-HEALTH

Czech President Vaclav Havel is making a steady recovery from an operation two weeks ago to remove part of his large intestine. The patient left his hospital bed and spent three and a half hours sitting in an armchair on Sunday.

Austrian doctors in Innsbruck, where he was holidaying when he came down with peritonitis, said he sat in a special chair. He was also able to eat semi-solids for the first time, after a feeding tube was removed from his stomach.

Havel was able to converse, had no fever and all his organs were functioning well. The doctors said the president might be well enough to be transferred home to Prague by next weekend.

CZECH-POLITICS-ACCUSATION

Czech Social Democrat leader and Lower House speaker Milos Zeman on Sunday accused Finance Minister Ivan Pilip of making slanderous comments about the future of privatisation in his country.

Zeman said in a discussion programme on private TV Nova that Pilip was lying when saying that the EU is concerned by the Czech parliament's recent demand that the government suspend further moves to privatise strategic industries. The motion, tabled by the Social Democrats and backed by Communists, was passed in the absence of many right-wing deputies.

Pilip, a defector from ex-premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party and now a leading member of the newly formed Freedom Union, was reported to have cautioned EU commissioners that the main opposition Social Democrats would stop privatisation if they came to power. He said he was not surprised by Zeman's accusation given that Mr Zeman is a notorious fact-twister.

Mr Pilip said the government will attempt on Wednesday to reinstate sacked members of the National Property Fund and restore its original budget.

The Social Democrats are widely tipped to win June's early election, although their approval ratings have slumped in the past few weeks.

CZECH-UKRAINE-NUCLEAR

The Czech branch of the international environmentalist organisation Greenpeace said on Sunday the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine 12 years ago this weekend was the biggest and most serious man-made catastrophe in human history.

Greenpeace said in a statement marking the anniversary that the tragedy in 1986 had convinced many Western countries to declare a departure from nuclear power engineering.

The statement, released in Prague, quoted World Health Organisation sources as putting the Chernobyl death toll at 120,000 and estimating that up to four million people have been affected by the disaster.

The Communist Czechoslovak authorities at that time withheld any relevant information from the public.

CZECH-BEAUTY CONTEST

On a lighter note, the Czech Republic's Beauty Queen for this year is Miss Katerina Stocesova. The winner of the pageant, whose national finals were held in Ostrava on Sunday, is an 18-year-old student.

The crown worn by the new Miss Czech Republic was auctioned off for 220,000 crowns to a businessman from the United Arab Emirates. The most successful bidder, Qader Akkad, also won the right to ask the beauty for a dance.

The proceeds will go to a senior citizens' home in Ostrava, which was destroyed during last year's catastrophic floods.

CZECH-SCHOOL-DICTATION

Pupils and their parents in a Western Prague elementary school on Sunday morning completed their attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records by taking in what must be the world's longest dictation.

The outcome of the 48-hour effort is over 61 metres of printer track paper covered by assorted spelling and grammatical intricacies which abound in the Czech language.

Children and parents worked one by one, each contestant taking a few minutes of dictation. The kids worked in daylight hours, their parents and grandparents at night.

CZECH-BRITAIN-TRAVEL

The British Tourist Authority BTA today opens an information centre in Prague to serve Czechs travelling to the UK. The BTA Central Europe Director Maddy Keup said on Sunday the centre would provide comprehensive information concerning travel to Britain.

She said the BTA considers the Czech Republic a growing market. She said that last year, the number of Czechs visiting Britain exceeded the 200,000 mark.

The centre, operating from the British Council premises at No. 10, Narodni Trida, will be open on weekdays from nine AM to seven PM.

CZECH-WEATHER

Finally, a look at the weather -- Expect cloudy skies in the morning hours of Monday, with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms. Afternoon highs between 21 and 25 degrees Celsius in most parts of the country.

An outlook for Tuesday and Wednesday -- nighttime lows from 10 and 14 degrees, some rain but not very much of it, and maximum daytime temperatures from 20 to 24 Celsius on both days.

And that's the end of the news.