News Monday, JANUARY 17th, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, and we begin as usual with a brief news bulletin.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Klaus, Zeman agree to strengthen "opposition agreement"

Leaders of the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have agreed on amendments to their power-sharing pact to allow the minority left-wing government to remain in power. The Social Democrat Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus announced after five hours of talks on Friday that the two parties were working on a deal to allow the 2000 budget to win approval in parliament. The two men said further talks would focus on five areas, including changing the electoral system and a joint approach to EU-accession legislation. Friday's talks followed the Civic Democrats' rejection of the draft budget in December. Mr Klaus's party had also called for up to half of the cabinet to be sacked, but there was no mention of a possible reshuffle on Friday.

Baghdad refuses trade deals with Prague over RFE broadcasts Iraq is reportedly refusing to sign trade deals with the Czech Republic in protest at broadcasts to the country by Radio Free Europe, which is based in Prague. The AFP news agency said an official Czech delegation left Iraq empty-handed on Sunday after two weeks of fruitless negotiations. One member of the delegation was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying that Iraq was refusing to sign a single contract as long as Radio Free Europe, which is funded by the U.S. government, continued to operate from the Czech Republic. The delegation had hoped to sign contracts with Iraq under the "oil for food" programme.

Disappointing turnout for hard-line Communist demonstration

Just three members of the hard-line Communist Party of Czechoslovakia turned up for a demonstration on Friday outside a spa where President Vaclav Havel is currently undergoing convalescence treatment. One of the three, a former member of the Communist secret police, told reporters the demonstration had been called off to avoid clashes with the security forces. He said his party had wanted to alert President Havel, whom he referred to as a mass murderer, to the high level of unemployment in the region.

Members of "Thank You, Now Leave" form political party

Several members of a new civic association calling on the power-sharing pact to be scrapped and for Mr Klaus and Mr Zeman to leave politics have formed a new political party. Members of the "Thank You, Now Leave" movement met in the East Bohemian town of Pardubice on Friday to agree on the new party. However most members of the movement say they wish to stay out of party politics, and concentrate instead on civic initiatives.

Ex-Republican to launch "European Democratic Party"

Meanwhile another new political party is to be founded in the nearby town of Usti nad Orlici. One of the founders, Pavel Maixner, told reporters the party, to be named the European Democratic Party, would be a strongly pro-European party aimed at supporting thorough preparation for Czech membership of the European Union. Mr Maixner is a former M.P. for the far-right Republican Party, which campaigns heavily against EU membership. Mr Maixner said the European Democratic Party would be a right-of-centre pro-business party and would have nothing in common with the Republicans.

Czech general says officers should stay in Kosovo

The Czech Republic's chief military representative at NATO headquarters in Brussels has said his country should retain a military presence in the international Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR. The Defence Ministry is planning to withdraw all of the 170 Czech soldiers serving in KFOR when their mandate expires, but General Jaroslav Hudec said Czech officers should be involved in the future command of the new force, KFOR III. There are currently 550 Czech soldiers serving in Bosnia.


And I´ll end as usual with a quick look at the weather forecast for Monday afternoon. And it will be a mostly cloudy afternoon with rain and snow in places. Temperatures will reach a maximum of four degrees Celsius in the daytime, falling to minus five at night.

I'm Rob Cameron and that's the end of the news.