News Monday, MARCH 27th, 2000

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Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, first we start with a bulletin of news.

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Havel unhappy with Zeman at head of BIS

Czech President Vaclav Havel expressed doubts on Sunday about Prime Minister Milos Zeman taking charge of the Secret Service (BIS). Following the dismissal of Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta, who was partly responsible for the BIS, Milos Zeman is now in charge of coordinating a large part of the activities of the Service. Speaking on Czech television, Havel said he would rather see individual ministers being held responsible for individual sectors and reporting to the government as a whole. This is the latest episode in a series of political exchanges over the BIS. The President recently voiced his suspicions that there are forces trying to destabilize the activities of two crime fighting units of the service.

Matters became more complicated on Sunday when deputy Chairman of the Social Democrat party Zdenek Skromach said that initial results of the government's anti corruption "Clean Hands" campaign had brought investigators into contact with people who work for the President . Havel's spokesman was quick to react, telling journalists shortly afterwards that Skromach ought to explain exactly what he means. He has since apologized for his statements.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for the Czech Secret Service, Jan Klas also recently criticized President Vaclav Havel for being indiscreet. This comes after Havel said at the end of the week, that he had entrusted Klas to investigate the work of the Secret Service (BIS) and that most of the job concerned checking out a particular person, who is a civilian. Klas said over the weekend, that Havel had given away important information. He also expressed concern that the President may say more in public, making work for his team of investigators even harder.

Grulich fears former communists may influnce BIS

Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich said on Sunday that pre 1989 communist officials could be putting pressure on the way the Secret Service is being run. He said that some of these people are connected to the former totalitarian government and are seeking revenge for the overthrow of communism.

Grulich cited one of Prime Minister Milos Zeman's advisors as an example. The Interior Minister said advisor Miroslav Slouf had tried to influence some of his decisions concerning personnel within the police force. Slouf was a former high ranking communist official before 1989.

Castro slams Czech Government

Cuban President Fidel Castro on Sunday angrily rejected criticism of his country's human rights record. He lashed out at the Czech Republic for moving to censure Havana at a U.N. Human Rights forum. During a five hour speech to students in Havana, Castro warned the Czech government that its relations with Cuba could suffer and even perhaps be ended if Prague joined the U.S. in criticizing Havana. He also indicated that his government intended to adopt a more active policy in rebuffing persistent foreign criticism. Fidel Castro challenged critics in the west to prove that anyone had been tortured or killed in Cuba. The Czech Foreign Ministry released a statement late on Sunday, saying Czech comments on Human rights in Cuba were accurate and justified.

Chechens leave Prague UNHCR office

The head of the Prague branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Sunday that the 24 Chechen refugees who have been occupying the offices since Wednesday, have left for resettlement elsewhere in the Czech republic. The Chechen refugees began camping out at the office earlier in the week, after they fled their refugee center north of Prague. They claim to have been the victims of violence and death threats from Russian Mafia in the Czech Republic.

EU to create crime and immigration scoreboard

European Union officials said on Sunday that Justice and Interior Ministers of member states will set up a scoreboard tracking the bloc's adoption of a common approach to immigration and cross-border crime. This is part of reforms intended to kick start a common approach to refugees, crime and justice. It seeks to make Europe a safe place for ordinary people where freedom of movement is guaranteed, but where illegal immigration and cross border crime are stamped out. The European Union ministers will also discuss in a televised debate how to offer greater protection and help for crime victims. They will also examine progress in the areas of justice and domestic affairs by the Czech republic and Hungary.

Zeman to drum up investment in Norway, Finland and Lithuania

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and a delegation left the Czech Republic on Sunday for Norway. This is part of a trip, during which Milos Zeman is hoping to attract investment in the Czech Republic. After Norway, he will go on to Finland and Lithuania. A government spokesman said the delegation will hold talks with local businessmen in Norway and Finland and explain some of the investment incentives created by the Czech government. In Lithuania, talks are expected to focus more on integration into the European Union.

Mass for Ladislav Lis (CSSD)

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and politicians attended a mass in Prague on Saturday for former dissident Ladislav Lis who died on the 18th March, aged 74. Observers say some 300 people attended the service. Milos Zeman made a speech is which he said Ladislav Lis had always upheld the principles of human dignity and rights. Lis fought in the resistance in the Second World War and signed Charter 77 as part of his opposition to the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. In 1994 he entered Zeman's Social Democrat party and last year became a member of the government's Council for Human Rights.

Gross confirms readiness to take Interior Minister job

The Parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats Stanislav Gross said late on Friday that he is prepared to accept the post of Interior Minister. Gross who is one of the candidates for the job, told journalists that if the current Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich should leave or be dismissed, he would be willing to take over at the ministry. Grulich said on Friday that he will announce his plans for whether or not he will leave at the end of the month. There has been plenty of speculation that Gross will be offered the job, he has attached a condition that he is to retain his power within the party. Party leader Milos Zeman has dismissed this notion, saying he would like to see the minister who would lay down conditions. This is part of a cabinet reshuffle demanded by the opposition Civic Democrats in return for supporting the budget.

Metallurgy strike?

One of the largest metal works in Moravia, ZDB, announced on Saturday that it may go on strike on Monday. A Trade Union official said the body wants to make sure company assets stay under control of the new owner, a share holding company which will be admitted to the supervisory board in mid-April. The company employs some 4 000 people in an area where unemployment is steadily rising.

Czech Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr visited Moravia on Saturday and held talks with officials from all five heavy industry companies in the region. This comes as production has dropped by 20% due to lack of finances. The companies say they want state help in the form of 1 and a half billion Czech crowns. Miroslav Gregr said that first of all he wanted to see a change of management and the creation of a group of experts to deal with the problems.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

Monday will see an end to the sunny weather we had over the weekend, with skies becoming cloudy and overcast bringing the occasional shower. Daytime temperatures will range from 7 to 11 degrees Celsius, dropping to around two degrees overnight.

That's the end of the news.