News of Radio Prague

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Spain comes out in support of controversial Czech resolution on Cuba

The Spanish government has said it will support a controversial Czech-sponsored U.N. resolution on human rights abuses in Cuba, which has been sharply criticised by the United States. The resolution, like several previous resolutions, condemns human rights abuses on the island, but for the first time describes the U.S. embargo against Cuba as 'counter-productive.' The resolution, which will be submitted to a forthcoming U.N. human rights forum in Geneva, has already lost the support of the original co-sponsor Poland. But the Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Pique, said in Geneva on Thursday that the U.S. embargo was "unfortunate, unjust and counter-productive."

Czechs announce 3.1 GDP growth in 2000

The Czech Republic's gross domestic product grew 3.1 per cent in 2000, surpassing most experts' predictions. Figures released by the National Statistics Office went well beyond the 2.8 per cent rate predicted by economic analysts, who said last year's growth had mainly been fuelled by strong foreign investment. The Social Democrat government has made attracting foreign investment a priority of its economic policy, and have announced several high-profile successes in recent months.

Prague 5 changes its mind about Cerny's Pink Tank II

Prague 5 local council has overturned a decision to place the body of a Soviet tank, painted pink by Czech contemporary artist David Cerny - in the city's Kinsky square. The council said it had changed its mind after a wave of protests from local people, the Russian ambassador and the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. Mr Cerny's latest work was meant to be a reference to the original 'Pink Tank': a Soviet tank that stood in Kinsky square which Mr Cerny painted pink in 1991. He is also known for his statue of St Wenceslas - sitting astride an upside-down horse - which is now on display in Prague's Lucerna complex.

Israeli firm to build country's first toll road

The Czech government has agreed to invite an Israeli firm to build and operate what will be the country's first ever toll motorway. The Transport and Communications Minister Jaromir Schling announced on Wednesday that the 60km stretch of motorway would connect the north-eastern town of Lipnik nad Becvou to the city of Ostrava. Israel's Housing & Construction company will build the road for just over one billion dollars, and operate it for 20-30 years. The road may later be extended by another 20km to reach the Polish border. Mr Schling said construction could start in the spring of 2002, and should be completed by 2007.

Temelin reconnected to national electricity grid

The Temelin nuclear power plant was reconnected to the country's national electricity grid on Thursday, as test production resumes following a 10-day shutdown for repair work. The plant has suffered a series of technical problems since going into test operation last year, the latest being vibrations in a turbine. Temelin has been fiercely opposed by Austrian environmentalists, who say its mixture of Soviet design and American technology is dangerous. The plant's operators, the state-owned energy utility CEZ, say Temelin is safe, and the technical problems are normal during any test operation.

Zantovsky: Kavan 'losing control' of Foreign Ministry

The chairman of the Senate's foreign affairs committee, Michael Zantovsky, has said Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is losing control over his ministry and indirectly called on him to step down. Mr Zantovsky, a member of the right-of-centre Four-Party Coalition, said the scandal over the renting of a Czech government-owned building in Moscow was just the latest in a series of embarrassing affairs for the ministry. A newspaper claimed this week that the company used the Czech embassy's bank account, did not pay taxes to the Russian authorities and enjoyed several diplomatic privileges. Mr Kavan has denied any personal wrongdoing, and has promised an investigation to discover who was responsible.

Kavan predicts warming of relations with Austria

Mr Kavan expressed his conviction on Thursday that in a year's time Czech relations with Austria would be as good as with Germany. Mr Kavan said Czech-Austrian relations - strained recently by disagreements over the Temelin nuclear power plant and the post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia - were now improving considerably. Mr Kavan meets his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner on March 29th to open the first of a series of history conferences on common episodes in the two countries' history.

Weather

And finally, a quick look at the weather. Friday night will be overcast with scattered showers, and temperatures falling to three degrees Celsius. Saturday and Sunday will remain cloudy, with more rain. Daytime temperatures at the weekend will peak around 13 degrees Celsius.