News of Radio Prague

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Klestil calls Havel about Zeman

The Czech-Austrian war of words over Temelin and Austria's Freedom Party continues. In a telephone call to Czech President Vaclav Havel, the Austrian President Thomas Klestil expressed his outrage over Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman's recent remarks on Austria's political scene. According to President Havel's spokesman, Ladislav Spacek, the telephone conversation ended with Havel stressing that he was against strong words and believed that both Austria and the Czech Republic must refrain from emotional dialogue and concentrate on matters of fact.

In an interview for Monday's edition of the Austrian magazine Profil, Mr Zeman strongly criticised the former leader of the Austrian Freedom Party, Joerg Haider. He claimed that Mr Haider was a "populist pro-Nazi politician who understood nothing and yet talked about everything" and commented that Austria needed to get rid of him and his post-fascist party as soon as possible. In reaction to the petition launched by the Freedom Party in Austria last Monday, calling for the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union to be vetoed unless it shuts down its Temelin nuclear power plant, Mr Zeman said "only a person who is not informed - and I am avoiding the term idiot - can support such a petition".

Haider labels Czech criticism as 'post-communist reflex'

Speaking to journalists in Germany, Mr Haider's explanation for Czech Prime Minister Zeman's words was what he called "old post-communist reflex". He added that he did not plan to reply to Mr Zeman as he did not want to "sink to the same level". Although he had to take insult from Czech politicians, he said, it was worth it as research had shown that the recent sharp criticism of the Freedom Party had backfired and won the party 100 000 more signatures in support of the petition against the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia.

ODA rejects call to merge with Freedom Union

Disagreement within the Four-Party Coalition continues with the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) rejecting an ultimatum given by the Christian Democratic Party (KDU-CSL), which called for the ODA to merge with the Freedom Union (US/DEU) or be excluded from talks on the upcoming parliamentary elections. The ODA has been in the public eye recently due to a 68 million Czech crown debt it has with the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company. Although the party came up with a plan to settle the debt, its coalition partners did not support it. Under an agreement made with the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company on Tuesday, the ODA is to pay 10 million crowns within 30 days and another 2 million crowns within 18 months. The rest of the debt is to be deposited into the Educational Programmes Foundation and will be paid back on a regular, long-term basis. The party plans to get the money from its party members and supporters, although most of their names are not to be disclosed. The Christian Democrats, however, are opposed to this solution and insist on the merge. This is unacceptable to ODA representatives who believe that the merge would result in the party's forced liquidation.

Austrian police detain Armenian refugees at Czech-Austrian border

The Austrian police have said that 14 Armenian refugees have been detained on Sunday close to the Czech-Austrian border. The refugees had tried to cross the border into Austria illegally and it is yet to be decided by the Austrian authorities whether they are to be sent back to Armenia or to be granted asylum. The four men, four women, and six children had tried to cross the border on foot along railway tracks. After having been caught by the police, they were attended to by the Red Cross and are said to be in good health.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather forecast. Sunday night will have overcast skies with showers in the lower parts of the country and light snow in the mountain areas. Night-time temperatures will range from 0 to 4 degrees Celsius. Monday is expected to be cloudy with occasional rain and daytime temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.