News Monday, JULY 19th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, first a look at the news headlines.

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

Politicians, analysts digest strong poll showing for Communists

Politicians and political analysts are digesting the results of a new opinion poll, which showed public support for the largely unreformed Czech Communist Party leaping to 18 percent, one point ahead of the ruling Social Democrats. If an election were held tomorrow the Communists would be the second biggest party in parliament, just five points behind the right-wing opposition Civic Democrats. However the director of the agency which conducted the poll said the party´s rising popularity reflected voter dissatisfaction rather than genuine support for the Communists. The Communists themselves say the Czech people are fed up of failed economic reforms, rising social problems and a deepening economic crisis.

Svoboda clings to ministerial post as Zeman joins calls for him to resign

The political career of the Czech Finance Minister Ivo Svoboda looked increasingly uncertain on Monday, after Premier Milos Zeman said on Friday that he should resign until a criminal investigation into allegations of misconduct in his private business dealings has been completed. Police announced on Thursday that they were charging Mr Svoboda with damaging creditors of a company he co-managed before taking the ministerial post last year. The company, which manufactured baby carriages, went bankrupt in 1997 amid allegations of asset- stripping, and Mr Svoboda could face a jail sentence of two to eight years if convicted. The premier is due to announce a cabinet re-shuffle this week. Commentators say the deputy Premier for economic affairs Pavel Mertlik is likely to succeed Mr Svoboda as Finance Minister.

Annan praises Havel for controversial Kosovo visit

The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has praised Czech President Vaclav Havel over his recent visit to Kosovo, a trip which caused controversy in Prague and condemnation from Belgrade. Mr Annan, meeting the president at Havel's country cottage in northeast Bohemia, said that the visit had made a strong political point in the region. The Secretary General, who ended a two-day official visit to the Czech Republic on Sunday, told reporters that President Havel´s interest in Kosovo had encouraged both the victims of the crisis as well as the international community. President Havel was the first foreign head of state to enter Kosovo since the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. He spent several hours meeting ethnic Albanians who were victims of Serb violence.

Freedom Union says govt planning 100 billion crown budget deficit

The deputy chairman of the right-wing opposition Freedom Union Karel Kuehnl has claimed the government is planning a one hundred billion crown budget deficit for the year 2000. Mr Kuehnl said the ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Civic Democratic Party were working together on the budget, as agreed under the so-called "opposition agreement" between the two parties. The Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla denied Mr Kuehnl´s claims.

Lucie Bila admits hospital treatment after tabloid cancer claims

One of the country´s best-loved female singers, Lucie Bila, has admitted undergoing preventative surgery in hospital, after a tabloid newspaper claimed on Friday that she was suffering from cancer of the uterus. Ms Bila, who is 33, sent a statement to the Czech News Agency saying she would not comment in detail on her illness, but called on all women in the country to undergo testing for the disease. Doctors say that some 20 out of every 100,000 women in the Czech Republic develop cancer of the uterus, twice the level in Western Europe. Patients have an 85 percent chance of recovery if the disease is treated in time.

Two dead in Olomouc plane crash

Two people were killed on Monday morning when their light aircraft crashed near Olomouc in North Moravia. The plane came down as it was approaching Olomouc´s Neredin airport. Police are investigating the cause of the crash.


And finally a quick look at Monday´s weather. We´re expecting a hot and sunny day here in the Czech Republic, with daytime temperatures reaching up to 31 degrees Celsius, falling to lows of 11 degrees at night.

And that´s the end of the news.