News Saturday, JULY 25th, 1998

Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I am Ray Furlong and we start with the news headlines.

Those are the headlines. Now the news in more detail.


The new Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has been outlining the priorities for his Social Democrat government. There were few surprises in the package, which stresses issues championed by the party in the pre-election campaign - such as the fight against economic crime, making the capital market more transparent, and speeding up economic growth. Zeman also said he believed the government should play a role in determining inflation targets, something which up till now has been the sole preserve of the central bank. However, he stressed this did not mean his government would be lax in attempts to reduce inflation.


The new Interior Minister, V clav Grulich, has taken swift action to dismiss one of his leading assistants - just hours after beginning work. Grulich sacked Robert Kola©, head of the National Security office which screens companies and individuals coming into contact with state secrets. Grulich gave no reason for the dismissal. But during his first meeting with his new colleagues at the ministry Grulich assured them they need not fear what he called "personnel earthquakes" in the near future. Opposition Freedom Union leader and former interior minister Jan Ruml called the sacking an "alarming decision," and stressed that the head of the National Security office should be an apolitical post.


Four people are now known to have died in the flooding which hit parts of eastern Bohemia this week, while others remain missing. Meeting in a special session, the government approved the deployment of soldiers to help relief efforts. An army spokesman said around 1,000 troops and 50 helicopters are now involved, and more forces can be made available. Waters are now receding in the flood-hit areas, but clean-up operations have only just begun and many basic services, such as trains, are still not in running.


Twenty-two valuable works of art stolen from Czech galleries two years ago have returned to this country. The works include paintings by Canaletto and Tintoretto, as well as eight statues, and have been valued at 600,000 Deutschmarks. They were actually recovered shortly after being stolen, but legal formalities prevented them being returned sooner. The thieves, a Czech and a German both in their mid-sixties, are both in jail.


David Zelezny, the son of the chief of the private Nova TV station convicted of rape in 1995, had his appeal for a pardon rejected by Vlasta Parkanov  earlier this week, in one of her final acts as justice minister before the appointment of the new government. A ministry spokesman says that Zelezny, who based his appeal on poor health and a claim that he had new evidence of his innocence, will now begin the three-year sentence he received for raping a 21-year- old woman in his car. Parkanov  regarded his claim for a pardon as ungrounded, the spokesman said.


And finally, the weekend weather. Saturday will be cloudy, but temperatures will reach between 23 and 27 degrees celsius with some showers in south-eastern parts. The situation will be similar on Sunday, although it might be a bit brighter. Meteorologists also expect the swollen waters of rivers in flood-hit areas to continue receding over the weekend. And that s the news.