News Saturday, JANUARY 24th, 1998

Havel warns early elections may not come about In the wake of a meeting with leading political representatives President Vaclav Havel warned that a no-confidence vote in the Tosovsky cabinet would almost certainly mar plans for early elections. "It will take me weeks to find a suitable successor and then more weeks will be spent in formulating a policy statement" Havel said. It was a thinly-veiled warning to ex-premier Klaus' Civic Democratic Party as well as the opposition Social Democrats who, while pronouncing themselves in favour of early elections, have been making increasing demands as a price for their eventual support for the Tosovsky cabinet. While the ODS remains exceedingly vague about its support, the social democrats have requested to be briefed in more detail about the cabinet's plans for price de-regulation. Opposition leader Milos Zeman said at his party's press briefing Friday that the Tosovsky cabinet was already showing "an arrogance reminiscent of the Klaus administration" by refusing to brief deputies on its policy programme well in advance of the vote, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 27th.

Pilip - banks

Meanwhile, finance minister Ivan Pilip today revealed more of the cabinet's plans when he told journalists that privatization of the state's shares in the country's three largest banks would not, after all, be undertaken by the Tosovsky government. Those decisions will be left to the post-election government, Pilip said. Our priority is to press ahead with privatization of enterprises in which the state does not have a significant share.

Sladek -cleared

Republican leader Miroslav Sladek who today stood trial for inciting racial hatred at a demonstration organized on the occasion of the signing of the Czech-German reconciliation agreement last year, has been cleared of all charges. The judge pronounced him not guilty and ordered his immediate release. The republican leader who was asked to explain his public claim about "too few Germans having been killed" said he had merely recalled his nation's bitter experience with its German neighbour in the SWW and had no intention of inciting hatred against anybody. Sladek's detention has evoked nation-wide publicity especially in the light of the fact that he was not allowed to vote in the recent presidential elections. He was given a hero's welcome by a crowd of his supporters.

Foreign trade deficit alarms experts

The Czech republic's foreign trade deficit rose by 18,3 billion crowns last December bringing last year's total to 140,8 billion. The December figure, which is unexpectedly high, has financial experts questioning the alleged positive trend in the last few months of 1997 -which was to have been a result of the fiscal restrictions introduced by the Klaus administration. "We cannot rule out a seasonal fluctuation but it seems unlikely that this was solely linked to the Xmas season, Jiri Krovak, analyst for Wood and Commerz told the ctk newsagency. The first three months of this year should tell us more, he added.

Havel -summit

President Vaclav Havel is attending a two day summit of central European heads of state in Levoca, Slovakia. The meeting centres on issues related to a united Europe. The presidents are to discuss regional problems and have a series of bilateral talks. Following a state banquet Friday the Czech president received a delegation of the Slovak Jewish community who wanted to thank him personally for the Czech republic's financial compensation package to Slovak Jews whose property was confiscated in 1941 on the grounds of a Slovak government decree. The money was later used to finance various projects in both parts of the federation.

And finally a look at the weather: a fairly cold weekend in store for us - the next two days should be cloudy with scattered snow showers. Day temps minus 4 to 0 degs. Nighttime lows minus three to minus 9 degs C.