News Saturday, AUGUST 29th, 1998

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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.

Havel

President Vaclav Havel has been released from hospital, over a month after being admitted for abdominal surgery. Havel said he was glad the operation had been successful and that the post-operation difficulties - which at one stage threatened his life - had been overcome. He looked to have lost weight, but appeared to be in good humour. Havel will now reconvalesce at his country retreat outside Prague. He said he was looking forward to getting back to work, and in particular to a state visit to the United States next month. Havel has suffered from repeated bouts of serious illness since undergoing lung cancer surgery at the end of 1996, but said he firmly believed that he would now be in good health.

US/embassy/RFE

The American embassy in Prague has made its first response to the decision by the Czech government to allow Radio Free Europe to broadcast to Iran - but not to allow transmissions to Iraq unless Washington makes an official request. Embassy spokesperson Jocelyn Greene made this statement for Radio Prague:

The Czech government has informed the embassy of its decision to allow RFE/RL broadcasting to Iran to proceed. Washington is pleased with that decision. We have not yet received any requests to approach Czech authorities regarding Congressional authorisation to fund broadcasts to Iraq. If and when we receive such a request we will discuss it promptly with the Czech government.

The plan for the new services has raised security fears in the Czech Republic. Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has now said that the government will evaluate how objective the broadcasts to Iran are before deciding at the end of this year whether they can continue. He also said the government was sensitive to the protests it has received from Iran and Iraq.

Zeman/unions

The Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has held talks with union leaders on drawing up a so-called stability pact. Speaking afterwards, he said part of the deal could be some of the demands raised by unions at the talks - which included a government pledge to support collective wage bargaining, as well as rules on workplace safety. Union leader Richard Falbr said the pact should govern relations between government and unions for the next four years, and that negotiating it would be a long and hard process. Nevertheless, the unions praised the government's interest in talks - something Falbr said previous governments had lacked. Wage demands of public sector unions were also discussed, but no result has yet been reached.

Kosovo/refugees

Police in northern Bohemia have recorded a rapid increase in refugees from Kosovo this month. The CTK news agency reported that the number of refugees from the wartorn Serbian province has increased from 100 to 1,000 in August. The police said that Czech law does not permit refugees to be returned to their home country if this would place them in danger - and that therefore the Kosovo refugees are being allowed to stay despite shortcomings in their papers. Most of them are staying in hotels and other makeshift accomodation, although some have accepted the offer of moving to the refugee camp at Cerveny Ujezd.

And that's all for now from the newsroom.