News Monday, FEBRUARY 22nd, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Police crack-down on skinheads

Police in the West Bohemian town of Pilsen have cracked down on the headquarters of the Czech skinhead movement. They are reported to have detained 12 people for questioning and confiscated a list of individuals registered as paying membership fees to the movement, as well as a vast amount of racist tapes, videocassets and magazines. It is not yet clear how many people will face charges. According to Pilsen police chief Jan Brazda there is sufficient evidence to prosecute. The ctk newsagency notes that if found guilty of inciting racial hatred the leaders of the skinhead movement could face from two to eight years in prison.

Freedom Union sets a steady-right course

At its weekend congress in the town of Nymburk, the Freedom Union defined itself as a party of right wing, liberal values, ruling out cooperation with the governing Social Democrats. The re-election of Jan Ruml to the post of chairman and the choice of party vice-chairmen clearly confirms the party's future right wing orientation. The gathering expressed itself in favour of closer cooperation with other right wing political entities on parliamentary and regional ground, and there were signs that the Freedom Union would strive for a merger with smaller right wing entities, among them the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Union, in order to bolster its position on the political scene.

PM sees no reason for concern

Meanwhile, Social Democrat prime minister Milos Zeman appeared unperturbed by the possibility of closer cooperation between the Civic Democrats and the Freedom Union, and he refused to see the weekend developments as a sign that the opposition agreement, which sustains him in power, was seriously threatened. "Both parties are independent entities and as such they have a right to cooperate with whomever they chose " Zeman said. In front of tv cameras he was unable to resist a parting shot at Vaclav Klaus, who on Saturday urged the Freedom Union to help his party end the present government's "socialist experiment". "If Vaclav Klaus wants to call it a socialist experiment so be it. I can only add that this socialist experiment is currently being implemented in 13 European states" Zeman noted.

US embassy not complaining

The US ambassador to Prague John Shattuck has rejected claims of interior ministry negligence in allegedly failing to provide the embassy with adequate security. These allegations first appeared in Saturday's edition of the daily Pravo, and were carried that evening by both private and public tv stations. Ambassador Shattuck said in a statement for the media that the embassy's cooperation with the Czech interior and foreign ministries was satisfactory and both sides would continue to do their utmost to protect both Czechs and foreigners from terrorist actions. The American and British embassies, which were closed since last Thursday due to an unspecified terrorist threat, have now re-opened. However, the US embassy has announced that it will not handle requests from the public until Wednesday, and the British embassy is only dealing with urgent cases.

Rychetsky - talks - Israel

Vice- premier Pavel Rychetsky on Sunday flew to Israel where he is to hold three days of talks with leading Israeli officials. Restitution of Jewish property is reported to be high on the agenda of these talks, and vice-premier Rychetsky is the best possible envoy since he heads a government commission which is to help resolve the problem . He will be received by the Israeli head of state, president Ezer Weizman, and later meet with the country's justice minister and the president of the Supreme Court. Last year the Czech Republic appeared on a list of states and institutions which Israel claimed had blocked progress on Holocaust investigations by refusing access to their archives. The Czech side has rejected the accusations.

Finally, a look at the weather:

Monday should be another grey, overcast day with scattered sleet or snow showers. Day temps should hover at around zero degs. More snow is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday.