News Saturday, FEBRUARY 19th, 2000

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

Now the news in more detail.

AUSTRIA-CZECH-VISIT

The leader of the opposition Christian Democrat party, Jan Kasal, has travelled to Vienna for a meeting with the new Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel - who is the leader of Austria´s Christian Democrats. Mr. Kasal said his visit was an effort to prevent the Austrian party becoming isolated in the wake of the international outcry over the participation of Joerg Haider´s far-right Free Democrats in the new Austrian government.

But Mr. Kasal also stressed that his trip was made with the Czech national interest in mind, because without support from Austria´s Christian Democrats there would be little chance of Czech entry to the European Union being approved by the Vienna Parliament.

But the trip was sharply criticised by the Czech Prime Minister, Miloš Zeman, who described it as a politically clumsy move. Mr. Zeman has announced a total freeze of high-level contacts with Austria.

CROATIA-CZECH-PRESIDENT

The Czech President, Václav Havel, has hailed what he called Croatia´s return to the path of European integration at the inauguration of the new Croatian President in Zagreb. He said Czechs had strong ties with Croatia, where many Czechs spend their holidays and where there´s also an ethnic Czech minority, and that he believed future relations between the two countries would be positive.

Croatia´s new head of state, Stipe Mesic, is regarded as a pro-Western reformer after the country´s international isolation under the late former president Franjo Tudjman. A number of Western diplomats attended his inuaguration in a show of support.

CZECH-CRIME-KOMERCNI

A special new team for dealing with economic crime may deal with the case of Komercni banka, whose leadership resigned this week in the wake of 700 million dollar losses. At a news conference in Brno, south Moravia, the Interior Minister Václav Grulich and the Supreme State Attorney Marie Benešová said the team would be in operation from around June or July this year - and would deal with cases like Komercní banka, whose losses were partly caused by suspicious deals.

CZECH-SENATE-CONSTITUTION

A group of 81 well-known figures from Czech public life have appealed to the 81 members of the Senate, the upper house of the Czech Parliament, not to approve changes in the country´s constitution passed recently by the lower house. Among the signatories are Prague Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, novelists Ludvík Vaculík and Michael Viewegh, as well as top comedians and actors. The constitutional changes were drawn up by the ruling Social Democratic Party and the main opposition Civic Democrats - they reduce the powers of the president, increase the influence of political parties and curtail the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by members of Parliament.

CZECH-FOOTBALL

Football now, and the Czech Republic´s second city has been having a hard time of it lately with its team - Boby Brno - in financial trouble and having an uninspired season. But now the club has been bought by a Czech company dealing in construction materials. If the Czech football association approves the purchase, The club´s name will now change to FC Stavo Artikel Brno - after its new owner.

WEATHER

This weekened will see cloudy skies with rain or snow in places. Saturday temperatures between one and five degrees Celsius, falling to between zero and minus four overnight. Sunday temperatures between zero and four degrees.