News Saturday, FEBRUARY 05th, 2000

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CZECH-AUSTRIA-KAVAN

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, said on Friday he would "loudly express his disagreement" if Austria's foreign policy changes to reflect the views of far-right leader Joerg Haider. Mr. Kavan´s comments came as a new government was sworn in in Vienna - also meeting with strong criticism from the European Union, the United States and Isreal because of the participation of Mr. Haider´s Freedom Party in the ruling coalition. Mr. Kavan said he shared the fears of 14 EU countries which said they would freeze diplomatic relations with Austria - but added that the Czech Republic would not be doing this.

CZECH-AUSTRIA-KLAUS

The situation in Austria has also led to sharp words on the Czech political scene, as politicians react to remarks made by the Civic Democratic Party leader and former prime minister Václav Klaus. In a letter sent to the new Austrian Prime Minister, Wolfgang Schuessel, Mr. Klaus condemns the EU´s position as "an unprecedented attempt to influence internal issues of an independent, democratic country." Czech politicians have been critical. Vladimír Mlynáø of the opposition Freedom Union party said Mr. Klaus had shown he did not share the values of the EU, while Petr Lachnit of the ruling Social Democrats said he could feel Mr. Klaus´s distaste towards the EU in the letter.

FNM-STIESS-RESIGNATION

The head of the National Property Fund, which is the Czech state´s privatisation bureau, has resigned amid allegations he worked for the communist-era secret police. Jan Stiess said the pressure from the media was proving too much for both his professional and family life. A police investigation into Mr. Stiess last month confirmed press reports that he had presented false documents proving he had not worked with the secret police, but he still insists he is innocent.

DRUGS

A pressure group called Parents Against Drugs has protested against what it calls the "immoral" stance of the Drop In centre, which organised an event at Prague´s Roxy nightclub calling for legalisation of soft drugs. Parents Against Drugs chairwoman Eva Šimsová said that Drop In received state funding to fight against drug use - not to support it. She added that United Nations statistics show 70 percent of young marijuana users go on to use hard drugs. This is the second time Drop In has organised the event, which is also a protest against tougher anti-drug laws introduced in recent years.

SPORT Sport now - and a record eight Czechs will be playing in the North America versus the Rest of the World ice hockey match in Toronto on Sunday. Goalman Dominik Hašek won´t be among them, he turned down the offer to play, so his countryman Roman Turek will be between the sticks. The NHL´s most productive player, Jaromír Jágr, will be playing. This is the third time the match has been held - and those eight Czechs will be trying to make it the first victory for the Rest of the World.

WEATHER

And finally the spell of mild weather seems set to continue. This weekend we can expect temperatures of between five and ten degrees Celsius, falling to between five and zero degrees overnight. There will, however, be rain in places.