News of Radio Prague

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Mystery remains over grenade launcher

The origin of a loaded grenade launcher found last week lying in a field near Prague airport remains a mystery. The Czech Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross has ruled out that the weapon could have been stolen from an arms depot serving the Interior Ministry or the police force. At the same time the Slovak Defence Ministry has vehemently denied speculation that the launcher could have come from a Slovak arsenal. Grenade launchers of the type found were in widespread use during the 1980s by Czechoslovak federal troops and border guards. With fears about airport security at a very high level worldwide, the discovery of the weapon has caused concern and embarrassment to the Czech government.

EU recommendation on cigarettes

The European Commission has recommended to EU member states that they grant a delay before forcing new member countries to impose the EU's very high consumer taxes on cigarettes. It has suggested a three-year transition period for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and two years for Poland, Romania and Slovenia. The question as to whether tobacco should be included among the concessions given by the EU to candidate countries has been the subject of a long and heated debate within the Commission, and the recommendation comes as a compromise. The candidate countries themselves had wanted a longer transitional period. Opponents say the concessions will encourage the smuggling of cheap cigarettes from east to west.

Havel in hospital

President Vaclav Havel is still in hospital in Prague, after being admitted yesterday with breathing problems caused by the worsening of a chronic bronchial infection. The president, who has suffered from breathing disorders since losing part of one lung to cancer several years ago, is being treated with antibiotics. He has cancelled his immediate engagements, but his personal physician has said that his condition is not serious and he should be sent home by the end of the week. The President's spokesman said that Mr Havel hopes to be well enough to take part in events to mark the Czech national holiday on Sunday.

Astronomer anniversary

Czech astronomers are today marking the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the founders of modern astronomy, Tycho de Brahe. Commemorations will culminate in a ceremony this afternoon near Prague Castle, and the city is also staging an international conference devoted to the astronomer. Tycho de Brahe was from Denmark but spent the last years of his life in Prague in the court of the Emperor Rudolf II. He is buried in the Tyn Church on Prague's Old Town Square.

Dark Blue World to battle for Oscars

The Czech Film and Television Academy has nominated Jan Sverak's film "Dark Blue World" about Czech pilots in Britain during World War Two to represent the Czech Republic in next year's battle for the Oscars. In the Czech Republic the film has been a huge box-office success with a winning combination of sentimentality and nostalgia with dramatic air battle scenes and bleak images of life in post-war communist prisons. This is Jan Sverak's third nomination by the Czech academy and in 1997 his film "Kolja" won an Oscar as best foreign language film. "Dark Blue World" will go on distribution in the United States at the end of December, after a gala showing at the Los Angeles Film Festival next month.

Czech films in Bombay

And on a related note, over the coming weeks film lovers in India will have a chance to see six classics of Czech cinema, including the recent hit "Pelisky", directed by Jan Hrebejk and the 1960 classic Marketa Lazarova by Frantisek Vlacil. Starting in Bombay this coming Saturday, the films will then be showing in Madras, Calcutta and Delhi.

Gas and electricity prices to go up

Household gas and electricity prices in the Czech Republic are set to rise above the level of inflation at the beginning of next year. Electricity bills will rise particularly sharply, by nearly eleven percent. But the Energy Regulation Board said that the increase is considerably lower than they had originally feared. They added that the increase would bring electricity prices to market levels following decades of heavy subsidies.

Zelezny gets green light in Slovakia

The Czech media magnate, Vladimir Zelezny, has been given the green light to enter the competitive Slovak private TV market. The country's licensing board has given his firm Ceska produkcni 2000 the go-ahead to purchase a key stake in the regional television network TV Global. At the same time TV Global has been given frequencies in three Slovak towns, including the capital Bratislava. Vladimir Zelezny is the controversial director and founder of the Czech Republic's most popular television station NOVA.

Austrian parties to seek a common stance on Temelin

The leaders of all parties in the Austrian parliament have agreed to meet on Thursday morning to discuss a common strategy in trying to prevent the completion of the Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear power plant, which is fifty kilometers from the Austrian border. The leader of the Austrian Green Party said that the country's main political forces should make it clear that they support the Czech Republic's aspirations to join the European Union, but should not be afraid to stress that Temelin is the biggest single unresolved issue between the two countries. / All the main Austrian parties have criticized the EU Commissioner for enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, who said last week that fears over Temelin's safety had now been laid to rest.

EU recommendation on cigarettes

The European Commission has recommended to EU member states that they grant a delay in forcing new member countries to impose the EU's very high consumer taxes on cigarettes. It has suggested a three-year transition period for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and two years for Poland, Romania and Slovenia. The question as to whether tobacco should be included among the concessions given by the EU to candidate countries has been the subject of a long and heated debate within the Commission, and the recommendation comes as a compromise. The candidate countries themselves had wanted a longer transitional period. Opponents say the concessions will encourage the smuggling of cheap cigarettes from east to west.

Weather

And a quick look at the weather...

We can expect it to stay cloudy with showers and cooler temperatures than in recent weeks, between 9 and 13 degrees Celsius. The weather should be drier later in the week, but nighttime temperatures will sink close to freezing point.