News Monday, MARCH 15th, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

Albright says NATO should have strong European pillar

In an exclusive interview for Czech television US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright congratulated Czechs on their country's accession to NATO. Albright, who was born Czech and took refuge in the West from both Nazi and Soviet domination, answered questions in near-fluent Czech, telling viewers " I congratulate each and every one of you. It is a great day for all of us". Madeleine Albright stressed that the United States wanted NATO to have a strong European pillar, pointing out that America couldn't be expected to do everything. For instance, in resolving the Kosovo crisis Europe should play a bigger role than the United States, Albright said. The US Secretary of State also emphasized the need to draw Russia into closer cooperation, saying it was terribly important that Russians should not feel threatened or isolated by NATO's enlargement.

One person charged in connection with anti-NATO protests

One of the three anarchists detained by police in the course of Saturday night's demonstration against NATO membership has been accused of hooliganism and endangering public safety. The man reportedly threw a smoke cartridge at some of the guests who were on their way to attend the army ball at Prague Castle celebrating the country's admission to NATO. After protest actions elsewhere in town anarchists and communist youths gathered outside the main Prague Castle Gates on Saturday evening to show their displeasure to the 1,000 Czech and foreign guests invited to the ball. Despite occasional skirmishes as demonstrators tried to break police ranks nobody is reported to have been hurt. The army ball raised half a million crowns in aid of charity.

Klaus ends visit to India

The Czech Republic's admission to NATO likewise overshadowed Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus's six day official visit to India. It was a topic brought up by his hosts at every high-level meeting, and the English language paper Times of India which only devotes two pages out of forty to foreign affairs, featured a lengthy interview with the Czech Speaker of Parliament in which he described NATO membership as "the beginning of a new era for the Czech Republic". Other dominant topics were the workings of the Czech Republic's parliamentary system, various aspects of the country's economic transformation and the break up of the Czechoslovak federation back in 1993.

Legislative changes overdue

Meanwhile, several right wing politicians have reacted angrily to vice-premier Pavel Rychetsky's claim that the former right-wing Cabinets of ex-premiers Klaus and Tosovsky failed to prepare the ground for legislative changes in connection with the country's accession to NATO. This concerns in particular speeding up the procedure of approving the presence of foreign troops on Czech territory and deployment of Czech troops abroad. Rychetsky last week criticized the fact that the respective laws had not been amended in time for NATO membership, saying that former governments had been negligent on this point. Ex-premier Vaclav Klaus sharply rejected the accusation saying that if anything the Social Democrats themselves had complicated preparations for NATO membership during the phase when they wanted Czechs to decide the matter in a national referendum . Klaus further expressed regret that he was being dragged into these unworthy skirmishes with the new political representation, noting that they only served to damage the country's reputation.

Foreign ministry official in Lithuania, Latvia

Deputy foreign minister Otto Pick is due to hold talks with Lithuanian and Latvian top officials in the course of the next three days. The ctk newsagency notes that Pick is the first Czech representative to visit the Baltic states since the country's accession to NATO and the issue will be high on the agenda of the scheduled talks. A foreign ministry spokesman said the visit would accentuate the Czech Republic's readiness to share its experience in preparing for NATO membership .

Einstein -plaque

The renown physicist and mathematician, Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein now has a bronze commemorative plaque in Prague. It was unveiled Sunday by Prague major Jan Kasl on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of Einstein's birth. The plaque, on which its author, sculptor Zdenek Kolarsky, engraved the theory of relativity formula, Charles Bridge which was a favourite haunt of Einstein's and a violin, can be seen on the building named At the Unicorn on the Old Town Square which Einstein favoured for meetings with his Prague friends, among them Franz Kafka.

Finally a look at the weather:

Monday is expected to be largely overcast with morning fog and scattered rain showers in the course of the day. There will also be a slightly drop in temperatures as compared to the weekend, Monday's afternoon highs are forecast at between 6 and 10 degs C. Nighttime lows plus 4 to O degs.