News of Radio Prague

ICEJ organizes petition condemning suicide bombings

The Czech branch of International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is organizing a petition condemning the wave of Arab suicide bombings in Israel. The petition, which is to be made available for signing on Monday April 15th, condemns the killing of innocent Jews and expresses solidarity with their families. The head of the Czech branch of ICEJ Mojmir Kallus told the CTK press agency that in its stand to the Middle East crisis the European Union did not distinguish between the murder of innocent civilians and military operations aimed against terrorists. The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for economic sanctions against Israel if it refused to end its military assault on the West Bank.

British PM's office rejects criticism of "inappropriate lobbying" in Prague

The Office of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected criticism from the Conservative Party regarding alleged "inappropriate lobbying" on a recent visit to Prague. Mr. Blair's political rivals accused him of lobbying primarily for those firms which sponsored the Labour Party, such as the British-Swedish consortium Bae-Systems/SAAB which is to supply the Czech Army with a fleet of 24 supersonic fighter jets. The Czech government has issued a statement in support of the British Prime Minister saying that it was perfectly natural for the two heads of government to discuss business ties. Czech government spokesman Libor Roucek said the British Prime Minister did not have to lobby for Bae-Systems/SAAB since it was the only aircraft manufacturer which met the sales conditions stipulated by the Czech government. The remaining four contestants withdrew from the tender last year.

Austrian politicians angered by EU Commissioner's statement

Austrian politicians have protested against EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen's statement that the post-war Benes decrees were no obstacle to the Czech Republic's EU membership. The Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero Waldner said the Commissioner's attitude was " a bit strange". On the television programme Press Hour she said the Czech side was also aware that something needed to be done and that she was confident that "a good solution" could be found. Attacks on Mr. Verheugen also came from the Freedom Party. Peter Westenthaler, Freedom Party leader in Parliament, described Mr. Verheugen's words as " a monstrous provocation to Austria". The Benes decrees sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of the SWW and some Austrian and German politicians insist that they must be revoked before the Czech Republic joins the EU .

Education Ministry wants special asylum-education centers

The Czech Education Ministry has proposed establishing special asylum- education centers for orphaned and underage asylum seekers in the Czech Republic. Spokeswoman Dagmar Nemeckova said the authorities need to provide for a growing number of underage asylum seekers who have no family or friends in the country. At present they are being placed in orphanages, but due to the language barrier and the need for special counseling, this is not considered an optimal solution. According to the Education Ministry two centers with a capacity for up to 70 children would meet the country's present needs.

Police detain 11 hooligans at Friday's football match

The police is said to have detained 11 football hooligans in the course of Friday's match between Banik Ostrava and Sparta Prague. Three of them allegedly chanted racist slogans and have been charged with inciting racial hatred, others with assaulting a police officer. Many of the fans arriving at the football stadium were drunk and armed with chains and baseball bats. Anticipating trouble the local authorities sent out close to 300 police officers to maintain order in and around the stadium.

Civic Democrats in the lead

The centre right Civic Democrats are currently the strongest party in the Czech Republic, followed closely by the governing Social Democratic Party. According to an opinion poll conducted by the agency MEDIAN just two months before the general elections, the Civic Democratic Party would get close to 25% of the votes, with the Social Democrats just one percentage point behind. The two party Coalition would get 15% of the votes, the Communists 14%. No other party is strong enough to gain seats in Parliament.

Czech version of National Geographic in the pipeline

The first edition of a Czech language version of National Geographic is expected to hit news stands in September 2002. According to Terry Adamson, the magazine's vice president, the English language version of National Geographic has many readers in the Czech Republic and the magazine's editorial board wants to make it available to a broader readership. The Czech language version will moreover include local stories.

And finally, a quick look at the weather: no significant change is expected until midweek. Monday should dawn gray and overcast and we can expect cloudy skies and rain throughout the day across most of the Czech Republic. Day temps between 9 and 13 degs C.