News Monday, AUGUST 31st, 1998

Radio Prague E news Date: August 31, 1998 Written / read by: Alena Skodova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Alena Skodova and we start with a bulletin of domestic news:

Iraq - Czech Republic - Radio Free Europe

Baghdad has called on the Czech government to retain good bilateral relations between Iraq and the Czech Republic by not allowing Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to beam its broadcasts to Iraq from Czech territory, according to the AFP news agency. "We cannot see any reason why the Czech authorities should participate in a US conspiracy that would strip them of fruitful relations with Iraq," the AFP quotes Sunday's edition of the Iraqi newspaper As-Saura, which represents the BAAS party. "This new state needs to develop relations in international politics and act wisely so that it doesn't spoil friendly relations with foreign countries," says the As-Saura newspaper, adding that Iraq feels no hostility toward the Czech Republic, which can only profit from friendship with Baghdad. On September 1st Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty will start broadcasting to Iran, but not to Iraq, as the Czech government decided last week that the United States, which finances RFE, must ask the cabinet for its standpoint.

1999 budget - options

Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda is preparing two different state budgets for next year: one, which he calls "a first aid-budget", is a balanced one, while the second anticipates a deficit of up to eight-tenths percent of the gross national product. Svoboda has said this in a debate broadcast by Czech television, adding that it's up to the cabinet which option to present to parliament for approval. The minister pointed out that the budget is being drawn up at a time when the state treasury is empty and indebted. Ex-finance minister Ivan Pilip told Czech TV that although it would be ideal to come up with a balanced budget, a budget with a deficit in that range - which would amount to some 15 billion crowns - might be acceptable.

Law on lotteries

On September 1st, a law on lotteries will come into force in the Czech Republic. The law excludes foreign capital from this sphere, even in the so-called consumers' competitions, and prevents not only firms with foreign capital but also their daughter-companies from organizong any kind of lotteries and competitions here. The controversial law has been criticized especially abroad, as in the European Union member countries, the consumers' competition are a regular form of a company's marketing policy. Many foreign companies already based in the Czech Republic consider this law a discrimination and a negative reaction is likely to come from Brussels, too.

Havel - school year

On Tuesday, September the 1st, when the new school year starts in the Czech Republic, president Vaclav Havel will break with tradition and won't visit any school this time, for health reasons. Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek explained to the CTK news agency that Havel's systems are still weak, and that at a school where there are teachers and hundreds of children, there would be a greater risk of him coming down with some infection. Last September the president was still recovering from lung surgery, and so instead of visiting an elementary school in Brno, as originally scheduled, Mr. Havel showed up at a school located near his villa in Prague.

And that's the end of the news.