News Saturday, AUGUST 15th, 1998

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

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

The Labour and Social Affairs Minister, Vladimir Spidla, has held his first round of talks with public sector unions calling for a 20 percent pay rise. No definite agreement was reached, but both sides praised the tone of the talks. Previous governments had rejected the union demands - the new Social Democrat cabinet has spoken of a compromise giving them a 13 percent pay boost. The public sector unions said after the talks that they want the issue resolved by next month so that they can move on to discuss another union demand: a system for pay bargaining similar to those seen in European Union countries. Minister Spidla said the government policy statement contained the basis for more effective communication with the unions, and that he could envisage regular meetings every three months.

More economic news - the Trade Minister, Miroslav Gregr, has said he wants to visit China, Russia and a number of Arabian states to see rapidly growing economies first hand. He said he also wanted to create scope for Czech companies to penetrate the markets in these countries. However, he denied that this meant abandoning the current emphasis on Western markets.

The main opposition party, the Civic Democrats of lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus, have produced their official position on the government policy statement. The ODS said the government statement is a populist document, which resembles a continuation of the Social Democrat election manifesto rather than a serious attempt at governing. "Most of the aims cannot be achieved and the authors of the policy statement are well aware of this," the ODS said. Nevertheless, Civic Democrat leaders confirmed that they will enable the Social Democrat government to win a confidence vote in Parliament next week - as provided for by the so-called opposition agreement between the two parties.

President Vaclav Havel had his regular morning check-up delayed as he slept in unusually late - something taken as a good sign by his doctors who said they are happy with his condition. They said Havel remained without a temperature and that his heart rate was still normal, two areas which caused concern during the recent critical stages of his illness. Doctors also thanked citizens for letters containing advice, but stressed that they were using standard medical techniques and no alternative methods.

Jewish people in the Czech Republic are as yet unaware what the impact of the compensation deal between international Jewish groups and Swiss banks will have on them. The chairman of the Prague Jewish Association, Jiri Danicek, said Czech Jewish groups would be discussing the matter with the international organisations which made the deal with Swiss banks. He stressed that work was already underway on a programme in which Czech Jews could receive 1,000 dollars compensation this year. Danicek said about 2,500 people would receive the compensation.

A statement has been issued by 95 intellectuals in Moscow stressing that Russian democrats will do everything in their power to prevent events similar to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia, which occured 30 years ago, ever happening again. The statement was issued to mark the anniversary of the invasion, which falls on Friday next week. Its signatories include former dissident Jelena Bonner and ex- reformist prime minister Yegor Gaidar.

And finally, good news for impotent men in the Czech Republic. The miracle drug Viagra could be on the market here in time for Christmas. Martin Kryspin, a top company representative in the Czech Republic, told the CTK news agency that details were being finalised for sale of the drug in the European Union. When these talks were complete, Viagra would head east and get itself registered in the Czech Republic. So it could end up being a very merry Christmas indeed.