News Saturday, AUGUST 08th, 1998

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Ray Furlong and we start with the news headlines.

Those are the headlines - now the news in more detail.

President Havel's Austrian doctor, Professor Ernst Bodner, has returned home - two weeks after operating on Havel to remove a colostomy bag that he had inserted during emergency surgery that saved the President's life in April. A visibly moved Bodner said operating on President Havel had been the climax of his life. Havel's Czech doctors have now said that he continues to get better, and is sitting up in bed and watching television. They said he was breathing spontaneously, and that the heart problems which had endangered his life at the start of this week were now receding.

The new government's policy statement, outlining what it intends to do over the next four years, has appeared on the Internet. As Prime Minister Milos Zeman said on Wednesday, the document differs little from the pre-election manifesto published by his Social Democratic Party. Among the main points are reviving the economy and fighting corruption. It also includes raising the minimum wage and re- introducing child benefit payments for all parents, irrespective of how much they earn.


The main opposition party, the ODS, has slammed the policy statement. ODS deputy leader Miroslav Macek said it showed the government's wish for a large state with a strong role re- distributing wealth. Nevertheless, the party still intends to allow the government to win a confidence vote later this month.

The Catholic Church has also criticised the policy statement, which says the government will put an end to the process of returning property once owned by the Church but seized by the communists. Church spokesman Daniel Herman said the government's position on this question would reveal its overall attitude towards coming to terms with the communist period.

The European Commissioner for relations with associate members, Hans Van Den Broek, has sent a letter to the Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan warning against the consequences of a Czech law which bars foreign companies from holding lotteries or competitions in this country. According to the French news agency AFP, Van Den Broek warned that "European" investment in the Czech Republic could fall as a result of the law - which is to come into force next month. Earlier this week, EU ambassador Johannes ter Haar told a Czech newspaper that the 15-nation bloc would take counter-measures if the law were not altered. The Czech Republic is among six countries earmarked for the first wave of EU expansion.

Fourteen people were injured, two of them seriously, as two trams collided in Brno early on Friday. Police in the Czech Republic's second city told the CTK news agency that the accident was caused by one of the drivers not paying attention - with the result that one tram rammed into the other one from behind.

A 34-year-old Kosovo Albanian alleged to be a key mafia figure was arrested by Prague police on Wednesday. Members of the drug squad and the organised crime unit raided the man's flat, where they found an illegally-held firearm and around a kilogram of Semtex plastic explosive complete with detonators. The police also confiscated what they said were 20,000 hits of heroin, six million forged Italian Lira and a stolen credit card.