News Monday, JANUARY 18th, 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.

Havel meets Klaus to talk about masonry

President Vaclav Havel is having lunch with lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle to discuss the current problems of the country. The meeting was initiated by Vaclav Klaus as a reaction to president Havel's New Year's message in which he called for the breaking down of the barriers and walls between ordinary people, ethnic groups and politicians.

Shadow finmin expects budget deficit to double

Shadow finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty for the Civic Democratic Party has sharply criticized the freshly-passed state budget for this year. In his opinion, the budget is very bad and he predicts that it will end with a deficit of as much as 50 billion crowns, as compared to 31 billion planed by the cabinet. Deputy speaker of the lower house, Social Democrat Stanislav Gross reacted by saying that a deficit budget was the only option in the current economic situation. He stressed that the government will do its best to keep the budget deficit within the set limits.

Maticni residents ask govt to buy out their houses

Residents of Maticni Street in the town of Usti nad Labem have asked the Czech government to buy out their houses. The local council intended to build a wall encompassing several blocks of flats in Maticni street inhabited mainly by Romanies. The council claimed the Roma residents were untidy and noisy, which extremely annoyed the other citizens. The plan was stronly attacked by both Czech and foreign authorities and human rigths organizations. Government decided last Monday to prevent the erection of such a wall. The owners of the houses on the other side of the street argue that they have the right to live in a clean and safe neighbourhood, and insist that if the government is not willing to do anything about the situation in their street, it should buy their houses to enable them to move to another location.

Telecom contract to be disclosed?

Representatives of the Czech transport ministry and Czech Telecom's strategic partner, the TelSource consortium, have expressed their willingness to disclose the details of a contract concluded by the former cabinet of premier Klaus and TelSource. The Dutch-Swiss consortuim owns a 27-percent stake in Czech telecommunications monopoly SPT Telecom. TelSource representative Bessel Kok said it would be desirable to make the contract public if this could stop the wide-spread speculations about corruption connected with the selection of a strategic partner for Telecom. Czech transport minister Antonin Peltram said he was for disclosing the contract as soon as possible, but without the addenda which contain Telecom's strategic plans.

Loprais wins Granada-Dakar rally

Czech Karel Loprais, driving a Tatra truck, has won the Granada- Dakar rally. This is his 5th victory of the prestigious rally in his carrier.

Cyprus foreign minister in Prague

Cyprian foreign minister Yannakis Kasoulidis has arrived in the Czech Republic for a four-day official visit. Kasoulidis is the first Cypriot government official to visit the Czech Republic. His agenda includes talks on mutual relations between the two countries, and the enlargement of the European Union. He will also inform his Czech counterparts about the latest developments in Cyprus which has been divided into two parts since 1974. The Cypriot minister is expected to meet with Czech President Vaclav Havel, Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and the chairmen of both houses of parliament.

BBC denies plans to cut Czech service

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) denied on Sunday it was planning to make large cuts in the World Service and said it was still in discussion with the government about its future format. The denial followed a lengthy report in The Observer newspaper that the BBC had finalised plans for major cutbacks in the broadcast service, including the closure of its Czech and German operations.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather. We are expecting a mostly clear day with afternoon highs ranging from 3 to 7 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.