News of Radio Prague
The US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan are reported to have held an informal one-on-one meeting in the Hungarian capital Budapest, where they attended a session of NATO foreign ministers. The two officials discussed the ongoing reform of the Czech Republic's armed forces particularly with respect to a tender on the purchase of new fighter jets to replace the outdated Czech fleet. The US Secretary of State is reported to have voiced NATO's concern that the enormous financial burden of acquiring new fighter jets might leave the Czech Republic unable to meet its other obligations to NATO, such as modernizing its ground forces and increasing action-capability. The Czech Republic has likewise asked for US approval of a plan to export spare parts for 90 L- 139 planes which it sold to Syria some time ago. Foreign minister Jan Kavan said that since this was not a case of exporting American hi-tech equipment to the region the US imposed restrictions on exports to Syria might not apply.
Czechoslovakia as model for Cyprus?
The Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has said that a solution to the Cyprus conflict could be modeled on the 1993 division of the former Czechoslovakia into two separate countries. "The Czechs and the Slovaks shook hands and separated and have gone their own ways without any problems," the Turkish Prime Minister said, adding that this seemed a better solution for Cyprus than futile efforts to try and bring together two peoples whose language, religion and nationality create a barrier. The remarks came as the divided island's internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government edges towards full membership of the European Union. Turkey likewise wants to join the EU but Brussels has asked Turkey to help find a solution to the Cyprus problem as a condition for Ankara to start membership talks.
Veteran diplomats say Europe needs close ties with Russia
Veteran diplomats commemorating the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union at a meeting in Prague have stressed the need to draw Russia closer to the rest of Europe. Wrapping up a two day conference in Prague, dozens of ex-foreign ministers and government officials in office at the end of the Cold War stressed that for Europe's future stability its member states should promote close ties with Russia. "Russia is too important to be left to an unordered process of further development," former Austrian foreign minister Alois Mock told the gathering. Although the officials present agreed that a second Cold War must be prevented at all cost, they failed to reach consensus on how far Russia should be involved in European decision-making. The two day meeting was sponsored by the Prague Society for International Cooperation.
The Czech President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday met with the visiting Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda to discuss bilateral relations, NATO expansion and European integration. President Havel assured Slovakia of his country's full support for Slovakia's early admission to NATO and stressed that the three newcomers to the alliance the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were deeply aware of the fact that their own performance as NATO members would affect the future admission of new candidates. Slovakia hopes to be in the second wave of NATO expansion and has made a concerted effort to catch up with the frontrunners for admission to the European Union. Its target date for EU admission is now 2004.
Number of asylum seekers rises dramatically
The number of asylum seekers in the Czech Republic is reported to have risen dramatically in recent months. The number of foreigners who have applied for asylum in the first five months of this year is reportedly three times higher as compared to the same period last year. Interior minister Stanislav Gross told newsmen at a press briefing in Prague that the country's asylum quarters were desperately overcrowded. A stricter asylum law may help the problem but it is not expected to go into effect before the autumn.
Speaker of Parliament in Australia
On the first leg of a week-long tour of Australia and Singapore, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vaclav Klaus has been meeting Australian members of parliament and local business leaders. Mr. Klaus is reported to have had a working dinner with the prime minister of New South Wales, Robert Carr and a meeting with the governor of the Australian Central Bank Ian MacFarlane. Vaclav Klaus, who as former prime minister masterminded the Czech economic reform process, has also been asked to present a number of lectures on "the expectations and the reality of reform in the post-communist world".
Philip Roth wins Franz Kafka literature prize
American author Philip Roth is to be honoured with the 10,000 dollar Franz Kafka literature prize, the Prague Kafka Society announced on Tuesday. Philip Roth is probably best known for his 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint" and his 1959 story collection "Goodbye, Columbus" which won him the National Book Award in the United States. The prize is to be awarded on October 28th in Prague.
And finally a look at the weather:
Wednesday is expected to be another warm and sunny day although the afternoon will bring scattered showers, possibly late afternoon thunderstorms. Day temps between 18 and 22 degs C. Thursday's temps have been forecast at between 20 and 24 degs.