News Monday, MARCH 16th, 1998

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Radio Prague E=news Date: March 16th, 1998 Written/read by: Daniela Lazarova

Hello and welcome to the programme. We begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour:

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

ODS slams Social Democrats

The ODS of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus has accused the opposition Social Democrats of "gambling with the country's future" by linking NATO accession to a national referendum. An ODS representative said Sunday that the conflicting statements which were coming from the Social Democrats' camp regarding this issue were casting a bad light on the entire Czech political representation. While social democrat deputies voted last week to drop the referendum demand and go along with a ratification vote before the June general elections, party leader Milos Zeman told newsmen Friday he had not given up on the idea of a referendum which he said would give a stronger public mandate to the decision, even if it took place after the ratification process.

BIS - SIS -links?

In the days preceding the downfall of the Klaus cabinet the Czech secret service allegedly requested the Slovak secret service to supply it with compromising information on Vaclav Klaus' political opponents. In exchange it is said to have offered damaging information on Slovak prime minister Vladimir Meciar. The allegation appeared in the Slovak daily Praca which cited former Slovak interior minister Ladislav Pittner. Pittner suggested such "exchange of information" was possible mainly due to the fact that both intelligence services were directly subordinated to the heads of government. Former head of the Czech secret service /BIS/ Stanislav Devaty has expressed the view that the allegations published in Praca are fabrications intended to damage his successor. There is no love lost between us, Devaty said of his successor Karel Vulterin, but the fact is that this game has been played against me in the past - and I believe it is by the same group of people.

Hunger strike

Alois Matusu, chief physician of the Bruntal hospital which has been threatened with closure, has gone on a hunger strike to try and get the decision reversed. Several days ago a health ministry commission which is engaged in reducing the overall number of hospitals recommended its closure, despite the fact that it is one of the few actually making a profit. The decision has sparked off a wave of public discontent among its 45,000 patients. In addition to possible health risks involving transport to neighbouring hospitals, its closure would put 500 local employees out of work. The Bruntal region already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Lobkowicz -Lithuania

Czech defense minister Michal Lobkowicz has started a two day visit to Lithuania . Bilateral cooperation and European security matters are high on the agenda of the talks. Of the three Baltic states Lithuania is the most energetic in forging close ties with central and east European states and seeking admission to NATO. It was greatly disappointed not to receive a mention at the NATO summit in Madrid which last year named the three front-runners in the process of NATO expansion. The Czech republic has said it would be very willing to share know-how with the Baltic states but the problem is primarily political. NATO General-Secretary Javier Solana told Reuters Sunday that while Russia had grudgingly accepted NATO's expansion to the Czech Republic , Poland and Hungary the Baltic states were another matter altogether.

And finally the weather:

The next two days will be overcast with light snow or sleet showers. Day temps between 3 and 7 degs C. Nighttime lows between 2 and minus 2 degs. Mountain resorts are reporting excellent skiing conditions for the first time this winter, with an average 10 cm of snow on the ground.