News Saturday, APRIL 17th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Ray Furlong and we begin with the news - first the headlines:

Now the news in more detail.

Zeman stresses Russia Kosovo role during Moscow visit

The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has stressed that a greater role for Russia is needed in resolving the Kosovo crisis. Zeman made the remarks during talks in Moscow with the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov. Both sides described Kosovo as a humanitarian disaster that needs an immediate remedy. Ivanov said the crisis threatened the whole of Europe, and he reiterated that Moscow favoured a diplomatic solution. Meanwhile, both statesmen said that Russo-Czech relations were improving. Ivanov said Zeman's visit was a "watershed" in bilateral ties, while Zeman said he was happy that this did not only apply to economic relations.

Havel praises humanitarian work

President Vaclav Havel has praised the work of Czech humanitarian aid groups active in the Balkans. Havel was speaking after meeting representatives of five non-governmental organisations at Prague Castle. He also welcomed the wave of solidarity from ordinary Czechs, saying it was "uncommonly important" as a spontaneous initiative which showed that positive human qualities were still alive. Meanwhile, Tomas Pojar of Czech Television's People in Need foundation - which dispatched a convey of four lorries laden with humanitarian aid on Thursday - praised co-operation with the government. He said work with state organs was running smoothly, in contrast to the sometimes strained relations during the Bosnian conflict.

Croatian freed in daring courtroom raid

A Croatian man wanted in Germany on what the police said were "serious charges" was dramatically freed from a Prague courtroom when two other men overpowered the court guard, seized their weapons, and made off with their colleague. No-one was injured in the incident. A national manhunt has now been launched, and border police have also been alerted. Police warn that the three men are armed and potentially dangerous.


The International Monetary Fund has predicted zero growth for the Czech economy in 1999. That would be an improvement on last year, which saw the economy decline by 2.7 percent. Speaking in Prague, Jacques Artus, a representative for the IMF's Europe section, said that inflation would be low - around four percent - and that the priority for the Czech economy was a pro-growth strategy. In this respect he said the IMF saw scope for more interest rate cuts, something Czech politicians have also been calling on the national bank to do.


And another piece of economic news - Slovak farmers briefly blocked 21 of that country's border posts with their tractors to protest against the level of food imports. Eight border crossings with the Czech Republic were also effected by the blockade.


And finally, a look at the weekend weather. Saturday will be overcast, with rain in places. Temperatures will range between seven and eleven degrees Celsius, falling to between five and one degree overnight. However, in eastern parts of the country the those temperatures will be several degrees higher. Sunday might see skies clear up a bit, but we still can't expect to see much of the sun. Daytime temperatures will range between nine and 13 degrees. And that's the news.