News Saturday, JANUARY 20th, 2001

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By Alena Skodova

Kavan to enlist foreign help to free Pilip, Bubenik

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has been entrusted by the cabinet to seek help from other countries in a bid to free two Czech citizens imprisoned in Havana on charges of being US spies. Mr. Kavan is hoping to recruit help from Spain and Slovakia. The foreign minister told Czech Radio that Spain enjoyed considerable influence on Cuba, while Slovakia had offered to hand over Czech documents, demanding the release of the two, to the Cuban authorities. MP Ivan Pilip and former student activist Jan Bubenik were arrested last Friday in the town of Ciego de Avila, after meeting Cuban human rights activists.

Havel tight-lipped on Pilip release plan

President Vaclav Havel told Czech Radio on Friday that he was also going to take steps, but that talking about them now would not be productive. Cuba has tried to return the two protest notes sent by the Czech authorities, which Minister Kavan described as "unusual" diplomatic behaviour. He also said the imprisonment of two Czech citizens might be linked to Havana's intention to force the Czech Republic to close down its diplomatic mission in Cuba. However Cuba has given the green light to a visit by six Czech MPs who will try to negotiate the release of Mr. Pilip and Mr. Bubenik, and promised their relatives would be able to meet them.

Austrian demonstrators protest against Temelin

A demonstration by Austrian anti-nuclear activists was held at the Dolni Dvoriste - Wullowitz border check point on Friday. The Austrian demonstrators were protesting at the Czech government's decision to carry out tests on the impact of the Temelin nuclear power station on the environment within a period of time which they say is too short. Anti-nuclear activists from Upper Austria have been joined by the Austrian Green Party which claims that the planned tests run counter to an agreement signed by the two countries' prime ministers, Milos Zeman and Wolfgang Schuessel in the town of Melk last month. There the Czech Republic pledged to carry out tests on the plant's impact on the environment by June this year.

Visegrad Presidents express satisfaction with combined approach

Four Central European presidents - Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Rudolf Schuster of Slovakia, Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland and Ferenc Madl of Hungary - have expressed satisfaction at their countries' cooperation within the framework of the so-called Visegrad Four. The four presidents met on Friday in the Polish town of Pszczyna to discuss their countries' further activities within a uniting Europe. They stated that the Visegrad agreement was still valid and had become even more significant in recent months. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have intensified bilateral meetings of prime ministers, ministers and EU negotiators to co-ordinate their accession into the Union.

Czech TV management to control money operations

Czech TV's Financial Manager, Jindrich Beznoska, met on Friday with representatives of the CSOB Bank. They agreed that the Czech Television management would not stop the station's payments, but would adopt measures to control all financial operations. The new management described on Thursday the situation at Czech TV as anarchy and considered stopping all its payments. There were no further details released after Friday's meeting between Mr. Beznoska and the CSOB Bank, as under Czech law a bank cannot disclose details of its contracts with clients.

Srejber sent to prison for embezzlement

A court in Prague has sentenced the former tennis player and entrepreneur Milan Srejber to five and a half years in prison for embezzlement. Mr. Srejber embezzled 13 million crowns in favour of his firm Srejber Tennis Investing. He had siphoned the money out of investment funds which he founded and administered. The chief judge said this was the lowest possible sentence, because Schrejber had never been prosecuted before. Mr. Srejber appealed immediately.

Weather

And finally a look at the weather: we'll have a cloudy weekend with snow showers in places, and the daytime highs between minus 2 and two degrees Celsius.