News of Radio Prague

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Date to be set for general elections next week - Zeman

Prime Minster Milos Zeman has confirmed that he will meet President Vaclav Havel next week to set a date for general elections. The elections have to be held between May 20 and June 20. President Havel has said in the past that he is in favour of the poll being held in May. Mr Zeman made the comments on Friday while on a visit to the United Nations in Geneva, where he said he had lobbied for the interests of the Czech Republic.

Zeman to lead Socialist International delegation to Belarus

Mr Zeman also announced on Friday that he is to lead a Socialist International committee for peace, democracy and human rights delegation to Belarus in April or May. Mr Zeman is the chairman of the Socialist International committee. The delegation plans to discuss democratic change in Belarus. The country's president Alexander Lukashenko has been widely criticised for ruling Belarus in an authoritarian manner.

Bavarian prime minister demands Zeman retract statements over Sudetens

The Bavarian prime minister Edmund Stoiber has written to the Czech prime minister, Milos Zeman, demanding that Mr Zeman retract statements he recently made about the Sudeten Germans. Mr Zeman described Sudeten Germans as traitors and Hitler's fifth column. And a spokesperson for the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, said on Friday that Mr Zeman's comments complicated a visit Mr Schroeder plans to make to the Czech Republic in March. Czech and German officials are now trying to overcome the misunderstanding caused by Mr Zeman's statements, said the spokesperson.

Austrian foreign minister calls for joint Austrian-Czech declaration on Benes decrees

Meanwhile, the Austrian foreign minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on Friday for a joint Austrian-Czech declaration that the Benes decrees were unjust. The decrees sanctioned the expulsion of Czechoslovakia's large German minority after World War II. On Thursday, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said the decrees represented a hurdle on the Czech Republic's road to the European Union, although Austria was not planning to block Czech accession over the issue.

Havel and Schuster inspect Czech-Slovak KFOR unit

President Vaclav Havel and the Slovak president, Rudolf Schuster have inspected a joint Czech-Slovak KFOR unit in Cesky Krumlov, south Bohemia. The unit is to begin taking part in KFOR operations in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo in March. The Slovak defence minister, Jozef Stank, also toured the base and pointed out that the joint unit was the first example of Czech-Slovak cooperation in peacekeeping since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Police drop cases against weekly Respekt and government

The police have dropped both the case taken by the government against the editor of the weekly Respekt and the case taken by Respekt against Prime Minister Milos Zeman, a police spokesperson said on Friday. The government said in October it was filing charges of slander against Respekt, when it carried an article accusing the government of being corrupt. Mr. Zeman said he wanted to see the weekly go out of business. Respekt then filed a suit against the government for inciting hatred, limiting rights and freedoms and violence. The editor of Respekt, Petr Holub, said he now plans to make a complaint against the Prague 1 state attorney for shelving the case.

Number of asylum seekers doubles

The number of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic more than doubled in 2001 to the highest level in a decade, according to police statistics released on Friday. The figures showed 18,082 foreigners asked for asylum last year, up from 8,788 in 2000. Only 83 asylum applications were accepted in 2001, compared to134 in the year 2000. The number of asylum seekers is expected to drop following the introduction of stricter laws at the beginning of this year.

Church leaders call for Good Friday to be state holiday

The Czech Ecumenical Council has called for Good Friday to be made a state holiday. The council said on Friday that they wanted parliament to consider the proposal. If approved, Good Friday would be the eight state holiday in the Czech Republic.

Draw for Euro 2004 qualifiers made

The Czech Republic will face the Netherlands, Austria, Belarus and Moldova in the qualification round for the 2004 European Championships in football in Portugal. The draw for the qualifiers was made in Porto on Friday.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather forecast for the weekend. Saturday should be cloudy with rain showers in places and temperatures between four and nine degrees Celsius. The weather on Sunday will be similar but it should be a little warmer with temperatures between seven and eleven Celsius.