News of Radio Prague

Laura Bush – Afghan address

The US First Lady Laura Bush who is in the Czech Republic on a four day visit, on Tuesday addressed the Afghan people via RFE/RL. "The people of the United States are on your side ," she said. "My country is helping to rebuild Afghanistan so that your people can lead a normal life. The isolation imposed on Afghanistan by the Taliban was not normal – neither by Western nor by Islamic standards." Although not a politician herself, the US First Lady is the first White House representative to address the Afghan people directly . A strong advocate of aid to war-ravaged Afghanistan, Mrs Bush met with representatives of Czech non-governmental organizations who currently operate humanitarian missions in the country. A representative of People in Need said the US First Lady was particularly concerned about the fate of women and children in Afghanistan. Mrs. Bush who has had a packed schedule in the Czech Republic is due to join her husband in Berlin on Wednesday for official visits to France, Russia and Italy.

EC on Benes decrees

The European Commission has stepped into an increasingly heated dispute between the Czech Republic and Germany over the controversial Benes decrees which sanctioned the expulsion of close to 2,5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia at the end of WWII. At a press briefing in Brussels the Commission's spokesman for enlargement Jean-Christophe Filori reiterated the EU line that the Benes decrees belong to the past and should have no impact on the Czech bid to join the EU. "The Benes decrees no longer have legal effect and this is not an issue relevant to accession talks" Filori said.

Stoiber criticized for Landsmannschaft speech

In a related development, the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher has slammer Edmund Stoiber, conservative candidate for the post of Chancellor, for suggesting that the Czech Republic was not fit to join the EU. Addressing the weekend gathering of the Sudeten German Landsmannschaft in Nuremberg, Mr. Stoiber attacked Prague for its unwillingness to revoke the Benes decrees. " We must ask ourselves whether a country which defends half a century old human rights violations is fit to join the European community" Stoiber told

representatives of the Landsmannschaft, an organization which defends the interests of the expellees. Foreign Minister Fischer said that if this was an attempt to threaten the Czechs then Mr Stoiber was "seriously damaging German interests" .

UN peacekeepers scrap weapons from communist Czechoslovakia

United Nations peacekeepers in Cyprus have completed the disposal of more than 4,000 weapons belonging to the Greek Cypriot police, imported in early 1972 from then communist Czechoslovakia. Work to dispose of the weapons began on April 18th following a proposal by the Cyprus government to help improve the chances of current talks between the leaders of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on the divided island. Cyprus has been divided since 1974.

Police crack down on smugglers

The police have arrested a gang of cigarette smugglers who operated across half of Europe, smuggling goods from Ukraine, through Slovakia to the Czech Republic. The cigarettes were smuggled in boats across the river Morava under cover of dark and sold at open market stalls by Vietnamese salesmen. The smugglers face up to eight years in prison. Smuggling of goods –especially cigarettes, sports gear and pirated CDs –is a serious problem in this country and annually the state loses out on millions of crowns in unpaid taxes.

And finally a quick look at the weather:

Wednesday should bring partly cloudy skies and day temp between 23 and 27 degs.