News Saturday, APRIL 08th, 2000

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Now the news in more detail.

Foreign Minister hints at visas for Canadians

The Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has said the Czech government is considering what he called "reciprocal measures" against Canada, after the Canadian authorities decided not to lift visa requirements for Czech citizens. Mr. Kavan did not explicitly say this would mean introducing the same requirement for Canadians - and his spokesman added that other measures were also under consideration.

Canada introduced visa requirements for Czechs in 1997, after a wave of Czech Roma sought political asylum there. In a letter to Mr. Kavan, the Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axeworthy noted that there had recently been an increase in the number of visa applications from Czechs which had been turned down.

Mr. Axeworthy is due to visit the Czech Republic in June - but the next revision of Canadian visa policy can´t be expected until 2002. A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry said a decision would be made on visa requirements for Canadians over the weeks ahead.

Zeman and Havel clash again

President Havel has said he´s alarmed at Mr. Zeman publicly and repeatedly criticising the work of police units specialised in fighting organised crime. On Thursday Mr. Zeman mocked two leading police officials, saying they were about as competent in their field as taxi-drivers or plumbers would be. Mr. Havel said it would be better to release objective information about their qualifications. Mr. Havel has previously defended the work of these key police units, while Mr. Zeman´s controversial senior advisor Miroslav Slouf has reportedly been working behind the scenes for their removal - prompting much speculation in local media about his reasons.

More Albright speculation

After the recent furore over a possible role for American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as future Czech president, there´s now talk of her leading an alliance of four centre-right opposition parties into the next parliamentary elections. Opinion polls have shown that a joint ticket of the Freedom Union, the Christian Democrats, the Civic Democratic Alliance and the Democratic Union could win a general election - but so far they have failed to agree on a joint leader.

Now Alliance Senator Michal Zantovsky has said Mrs. Albright would be the perfect candidate for prime minister, someone all four parties in the alliance could unite behind. He said Mrs. Albright was a tried and trusted politician who was untouched by the ups and downs of Czech politics over the last decade.

Other members of the four-party alliance have responded with less enthusiasm, however. Freedom Union leader Karel Kuhnl said this year´s Senate elections did not require a single leader, while Christian Democrat MP Miroslav Kalousek said the four parties had to first unite on a single programme.

Skvorecky flies in

A Czech literary legend, Josef Skvorecky, has arrived in Prague to begin a 72-hour non-stop reading from his works. The author, who during the communist era published banned Czechoslovak writers from his exile in Toronto, will begin the reading on Sunday night at a downtown Prague church - before fans and admirers take over. Mr. Skvorecky´s programme in Prague also includes meetings with fellow authors and book-signings.

Senate makes books more expensive

But there´s also bad news for Czech book buffs. The upper house of Parliament, the Senate, has passed a law bringing Czech copyright legislation into line with that of the European Union. This means copyright will now apply for 70 years after the author´s death, not 50 years as has been the case up till now. So publishers will now have to pay royalties on editions of some early 20th century Czech classics such as Karel Capek and Vladislav Vancura, probably making them more expensive.

Court gives two-year sentences for brutal rape

A court in Brno has given sentences of two-years and twenty months to two men found guilty of brutally raping a 14-year-old girl. A third man was found not guilty, and the state attorney has appealed against this - but he has not yet responded to the sentences handed down to the two convicted men. The prosecution said the three men had been alone with the girl in a bar, and had beaten her up before raping her. The incident took place five years ago.

Weather

And we end with a look at the weekend weather. Saturday will see cloudy skies with rain in places and snow in the hills. Temperatures will range between seven and eleven degrees Celsius, falling to between three and minus one overnight. Sunday will be similar, although a bit chillier - with daytime temperatures between five and nine degrees.