News Saturday, DECEMBER 04th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Ray Furlong and we begin the programme with a bulletin of news. First the headlines.

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


Grave concern over the situation in Chechenya has been voiced by the Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak presidents at a meeting in Slovakia´s Tatra Mountains. According to the CTK news agency, Czech President Václav Havel said it was not possible for human rights to be abused in the name of fighting terrorism - a reference to the continuing Russian offensive in Chechenya. The four central European leaders were meeting to reinvigorate regional cooperation, and appealed for Slovakia to be given NATO membership. Their final communique also voiced hope that Serbia would have a democratic future.


Demonstrations calling for the resignation of the Czech government and for new parliamentary elections to be held have been held in several towns and cities around the country. A reporter for Czech Radio said there were around ten thousand people at the protest on Prague´s Wenceslas Square. The demonstrations are supporting the recent petition drive, "Thanks, Now Get Out," issued by leaders of the 1989 anti-communist student movement. It calls for Prime Minister Milos Zeman and opposition leader Václav Klaus to leave politics, and for greater morality in public life.


This weekend sees two important party conferences in the Czech Republic. The centre-right Civic Democrats, or ODS, will re-elect former prime minister Václav Klaus as leader at its meeting. He has no opponent. The conference is also expected to back the party leadership´s strategy of tolerating the Social Democrat government.

Meanwhile, Miroslav Grebenícek is expected to get re-elected head of the Communist Party, and win support for a programme which includes renationalising key areas of the economy such as banking, communication, and energy. Support for the Communists has recently risen significantly, and some opinion polls say it´s the strongest party in the country. But observers say it must reform itself before playing a more central role in Czech politics.


East Europeans forced to work as slave labourers for Germany during the war will demand ten to fifteen billion marks compensation. Lawyers representing former wartime slaves from the Czech Republic, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the figure at a meeting in Prague. But the German government and German companies are offering just eight billion, and as talks continue a Polish group meeting in Warsaw has now warned that time is running out as victims die of illness and old age.


And finally, the weekend weather - Saturday will be cloudy with scattered showers and temperatures between two and six degrees Celsius. On Sunday there may be snow in places and subzero temperatures. And that´s the news.