News Saturday, JULY 01th, 2000

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Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Ag Min to ask for seven billion crowns in drought compensation

The Minister of Agriculture, Jan Fencl, has said he will ask the government for seven billion crowns, or 185 million dollars, to be used as compensation for farmers whose crops failed in the recent drought. Millions of acres of crops were ruined over the last month as temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius in places with no rain for weeks. The Agriculture Ministry had set aside only 200 million crowns to deal with the consequences of drought when the budget was drawn up last year.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan begins first official visit to Ireland

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has begun his first official visit to Ireland, meeting his Irish counterpart Brian Cowen and representatives of the Irish Parliament. The main points of discussion of his two-day visit are European enlargement and further economic co-operation between Ireland and the Czech Republic. Mr Kavan is also to meet the Irish President Mary McAleese.

Minimum wage goes up July 1st

The minimum wage in the Czech Republic rises on July 1st to 4,500 crowns, or just under 120 dollars per month, an increase of around 15 dollars. The Social Democrats announced after entering government in 1998 that they would increase the minimum wage in a bid to encourage the unemployed to seek work. Health insurance payments also increase as of July 1st. And the government says it will make education a top priority in its budget for next year. The Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that investment in education would lead to the revival of the Czech economy.

Two dead in Austria after head-on collision with Czech bus

The Austrian motoring organisation has released more details of a serious road accident involving a Czech bus that occurred on a motorway in lower Austria in the early hours of Friday morning. The accident occurred when the Austrian car collided with the bus head-on near the town of Stockerau. Two passengers travelling in the car were killed, and a number of people travelling in the bus were injured. A spokesman for the Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed they had been released from hospital and had returned to the Czech Republic.

Last commander of Communist Czechoslovakia's secret police charged

A senior military prosecutor in Slovakia has charged 61-year-old Alojz Lorenc, the last commander of Communist Czechoslovakia's secret police, with abuse of public office. Mr Lorenc is accused of violating the human rights of over 100 people, including the current Czech President and former dissident Vaclav Havel, and faces a jail sentence of three to ten years. Lorenc had received a four-year prison sentence in May 1993, but after the break-up of Czechoslovakia that same year used his rights as a Slovak citizen to avoid serving the sentence, which had been handed down in a Czech court. His trial was then begun anew in the newly formed Slovak Republic.

Almost 100,000 people sign petition demanding referendum on Temelin

Almost 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding a referendum on the launching of operations at the Temelin nuclear power plant. Environmentalists began gathering signatures in April. Prime Minister Milos Zeman agreed to a referendum in June 1998, but said recently that deputies in the lower house had repeatedly turned down the motion. Prime Minister Zeman's government approved the completion of Temelin last May, and fuel is to begin arriving at the plant this September.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weekend's weather. Saturday promises partly overcast skies with some scattered showers in places. Temperatures will reach highs of 25 degrees Celsius during the day and drop to lows of 7 degrees at night. A warm front will hit the Czech Republic on Sunday, bringing highs of 27 degrees during the day and night-time temperatures between 9 and 13 degrees. Skies will remain partly cloudy with some scattered showers and storms throughout the day.

I'm Rob Cameron and that's the end of the news.