News Saturday, JANUARY 02th, 1999

A very Happy New Year and welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.


President Vaclav Havel said on Friday that nearly 10 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain new walls were dividing Czech society and threatening democracy.

Havel said in a prerecorded New Year speech on Czech public radio and television that barriers were emerging between ethnic groups and divisions were appearing in politics.

Havel tape in Czech

"We long ago pulled down the great wall which divided us from democratic Europe but equally we tolerate the slow and inconspicuous growth of new walls, no better than those which fell, Havel said.

He called on Czechs to renew the spirit which brought down totalitarianism in 1989 and strengthen their will to combat evil.

Czech leaders have expressed concern in recent months at the incidence of racism, particularly against the Roma minority.

President Havel said in his address that the new year would see the Czech Republic join NATO, giving it not only security guarantees but also a share of responsibility for peace, and probably a final decision on Czech membership of the European Union.

Sixty-two-year-old President Havel is currently recovering from a respiratory illness in the Canary Islands.


In a rare public display of unity, two great political rivals appeared jointly on private TV NOVA at midnight to wish a happy and prosperous new year to stunned viewers.

Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus wished them well and promised that politics would not stay in the way of civic activities and would stop poisoning the atmosphere in the Czech Republic.

Social Democrat Zeman and opposition leader Klaus are bound to work together under a pact which six months ago enabled the socialists to form a minority government with a silent support from Klaus's right-of-centre ODS party.


NATO commanders were so gloomy about their chances of repelling Soviet attack after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia they contemplated using nuclear weapons, according to British records released on Friday.

The files indicate that the Warsaw Pact invasion in late August was a huge shock for the alliance and triggered bitter mutual recriminations over the low numbers and quality of NATO forces in Europe.

At a meeting of NATO's Military Committee in Brussels in September 1968, the minutes of which were stored in the British Ministry of Defence records, U.S. General Lyron Lemintzer of NATO's Supreme Allied Command in Europe, left his colleagues in no doubt as to their vulnerability.

The British government records of 30 years ago also reveal that then Prime Minister Harold Wilson fought with Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart over whether to send Christmas cards to Soviet strongman Leonid Brezhnev and other Warsaw Pact leaders in the wake of the August invasion.


Volkswagen's Czech subsidiary Skoda plans to start producing automobiles in the central Russian town of Izhevsk this year.

It was announced on Friday that Skoda and the Russian company Izhmash have already signed a declaration of intent for the project, which is expected to involve an investment of more than 300 million dollars. Planned annual production runs between 80,000 and 170,000 cars.

A few thousand Skoda Felicias will be the first cars produced and other models can follow later. The Russian financial newspaper Kommersant Daily reports that the Russian-built Skodas will sell for about 7,500 dollars.

Izhevsk was a centre of armaments production in the days of the Soviet Union and Izhmash produced small automobiles there. But in recent years it has suffered serious financial problems as part of Russia's economic crisis and production had to be stopped for all practical purposes.


The first baby born in the Czech Republic in the new year is Klara Hulanova, who arrived one second after midnight at Prague's Vinohrady maternity hospital.

Klara will receive a savings book with a deposit of 15,000 crowns, donated by the Prague City Hall.


And finally, a look at the weather. Tuesday will be a cloudy and partly also wet day in the Czech Republic

Daytime highs from zero to four degrees Celsius, between one and four below in the Czech Moravian Uplands, and four above in the mountains above 1,000 metres.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.