News Monday, NOVEMBER 02th, 1998

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Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines

And now the news in more detail.

Floods

Continuous heavy rain has brought flooding, with several rivers in the west of the country bursting their banks. A number of houses have found themselves under water in the town of Susice and in some areas water levels are continuing to rise, bringing a serious danger of further flooding. Also in the north of the country, one of the main roads through the town of Usti nad Labem was closed on Sunday as the River Elbe rose rapidly, to nearly three times its usual level. There are also flood alerts along sections of the Vltava and other rivers in Central Bohemia. Strong winds, reaching hurricane force in places, have also caused havoc in many areas, with several roads closed by fallen trees.

Havel-Klaus Differences

President Vaclav Havel and former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus locked horns over the weekend, in a discussion on Czech Radio in which they confirmed their widely differing views of society. Mr Klaus described the President as an elitist and moralist, claiming that Mr Havel's liking for a "civic society" is nothing more than a hollow phrase. In return the President criticised Mr Klaus's monetarist vision of a society driven purely by the market. He defended the role of the state, describing it as a tool of social solidarity, and warned against a free market run wild. Mr Havel also vehemently denied claims by Mr Klaus that the President's office interferes in the political running of the country and has its own independent political programme.

Road Protest

Hundreds of residents of Prague and nearby towns and villages took part in a protest on Saturday against the building of a motorway in an area of countryside just to the south-east of the city, close to Pruhonice Castle. They planted trees on the precise line of the planned road, which recently found its way back onto the city's transport development plan. Local authorities in the area have given their support to the protestors, and the former Environment Minister, Martin Bursik, also took part.

Zeman Denies Wanting to Sack Minister

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has firmly denied rumours that he plans to sack his Culture Minister Pavel Dostal. He added that similar rumours last month that he was planning a cabinet reshuffle proved to be equally untrue. Mr Zeman added that such gossip confirms his suspicion that some journalists are openly mendacious, while others are simply unintelligent. Minister Dostal has also denied any possible rift with the Prime Minister.

Doctors' Chief Condemns Health Minister

The head of the professional chamber representing doctors, Bohuslav Svoboda, has accused the government of trying to return the health sector to the situation of twenty years ago. He said that the government is defying world trends by pursuing a policy of in-patient treatment in preference to out-patient day-care. He also accused the Health Ministry of discriminating against private health facilities. However Health Minister Ivan David has defended government policy, saying that his sole intention is to place the interests of the patient first.

Czechoslovakia Nostalgia

Members of the last Czechoslovak government before the country split in 1993 met in Prague over the weekend, and remembered times past at the same time as commenting on the current political situation in the two former Czechoslovak states. Former Prime Minister Marian Calfa, defended the achievements of the first postcommunist government, saying that it took all the important first steps towards transforming the country. Only one of the then ministers today holds a government post, Deputy Prime Minister, Pavel Rychetsky.

Czech-Slovak Cohabitation

And staying with a Czechoslovak theme, the deputy chair of the Czech Parliament, Petra Buzkova, has called for a renewal of the spirit of cooperation that led to the foundation of Czechoslovakia eighty years ago. She said that politicians in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have failed to rise to the challenge of rebuilding a special relationship between the two nations, but that ordinary citizens are fulfilling that role for them at a grass roots level.

General Patton Receives Czech Honour

General George Patton, the son of the American general who led the Allied forces that liberated Western Bohemia at the end of World War Two, has been given the highest Czech honour, the Order of the White Lion. The chairman of the Czech Senate, Petr Pithart presented the award at a private ceremony on the family farm near Boston. The 75-year-old general said that the award came as a great surprise. In the footsteps of his father, he had a career in the American army, including service in Korea and Vietnam.

Beauty Contest With a Difference

With Radio Prague as one its main media partners, Prague hosted a beauty contest on Saturday night with a difference. All the participants, from throughout Central and Eastern Europe have serious hearing difficulties. The aim of the contest was to help break down the isolation of young people with hearing difficulties, especially for women who hope to follow a career in modelling. The winner was Katarina Gorodeckaja from Ukraine.

Weather

And a look at the weather:

On Monday we can expect somewhat brighter weather than over the past few days, with no more than isolated showers. But it will be cold with temperatures between 5 and 9 degrees Celsius and showers falling as snow in the mountains.

Preview for Monday

And I'll end with a look at some events expected today:

Representatives from the French and German foreign ministries will be in Prague for talks on problems accompanying European Union expansion, throughout the Czech Republic people will be marking All Souls' Day by placing candles and flowers at the graves of departed relatives - there'll be a special mass of remembrance this afternoon at 4.30 at the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on Vysehrad,

and in our later broadcasts we'll bring up-to-date reports on the threat of further floods.

But for the time being, that's all from the newsroom.