News Saturday, FEBRUARY 07th, 1998

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There has been stormy reaction in Parliament to the news that Sudeten German leader Franz Neubauer has been appointed to a body set up by the Czech-German declaration. The Social Democrat leader, Milos Zeman, told Parliament that his party would not take a seat on the body where Neubauer has been appointed. And he added that his party was washing its hands of responsibility for the implementation of the Czech-German declaration - which was signed last year in an attempt to smoothe relations between the two nations. The communist party have called on the Foreign Minister, Jaroslav Sedivy, to resign. But Sedivy insisted Neubauer's presence in a discussion forum set up by the declaration was not an obstacle to further dialogue.

The Civic Democratic Alliance, or ODA, has announced that it is to give money to charity which it received from anonymous donors. The money, totalling several million crowns, was paid to the ODA via a fictitious company based on the Virgin Islands. ODA leader Jiri Skalicky said the donors had legitimately wished to support his party, but had also wanted to remain in anonymity. Therefore, he said, the Alliance had decided to give the money to humanitarian purposes. However, the ODA has not yet reached a decision on what to do about claims by a Czech businessman who says he was forced into making a two million crown donation to the party in return for the privatisation of a department store in the north Moravian town of Opava.

President Vaclav Havel has met with renouned British playwright Tom Stoppard ahead of the Czech premiere of the latter's play Arkadia at Prague's Divadlo Komedie theatre. The two dramatists are actually old friends, who first began writing to each other in the 1960s but did not meet until 20 years later. Stoppard, who later edited some of Havel's plays for him, is originally from the Moravian town of Zlin. Born Tomas Straussler, he was taken to Britain at the age of seven shortly after the war when Czechoslovakia's ethnic German population was expelled from the country. Durin