News Saturday, JUNE 06th, 1998

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The spokesman for the intelligence service has announced that it has completed an investigation of the so-called Bamburg affair, in which it was alleged that the main opposition Social Democrats promised future government posts to businessmen in return for financial backing. However, the details of the report have not been announced. Spokesman Jan Subert said it had been handed to President Vaclav Havel, and that only he could announce any details. However, he also said the report was a step towards clearing up the whole affair. Meanwhile, the President's spokesman told the CTK news agency that Havel would be holding an unofficial meeting with the Social Democrat leader, Milos Zeman, in the near future.

Trade unions have announced they will block motorways and roads at a hundred locations throughout the Czech Republic on Monday. The blockade is part of a wider protest held by public sector workers' unions, who represent about 800,000 employees. They are calling for higher wages after the government announced a public sector pay freeze as part of restrictive measures last year. Monday's protest will held by teachers, health workers, and civil servants - as well as employees at Prague Zoo. It will include an hour-long strike and a blockade of some border crossings. The protest has been backed by Milos Zeman, who said that a future Social Democrat government would be open to dialogue with trade unions.

The police say that there are increasing numbers of lorries coming into the Czech Republic which do not meet international safety standards. The police announced that in May they held a special operation to clamp down on dangerous lorries and trucks, and detected over 300 instances where standards were not met. About 40 lorries were sent back over the border. The police said the operation focused most closely on dangerous cargoes and on drivers not observing the rules on having regular breaks and enough sleep.

The vehicle producer Skoda Auto has announced a 15 percent drop in domestic sales for the first five months of 1998. The company said it had sold only 35,000 vehicles on the Czech market, which is seen as crucial for its overall results. A Skoda official said uncertainty ahead of this month's general election played a part in reducing sales, as did people's fear of losing employment. The company said the time when it repeatedly broke sales records was over - but, bearing in mind Skoda's role as probably the Czech Republic's single most important exporter, said that overseas sales may make up for the domestic downturn.

The Russian airline Aeroflot has opened a regular link from Moscow to the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary - perhaps best known outside the republic as Karlsbad. The move comes after Czech airlines introduced the same link in February, and reflects the large number of Russians who visit the town - where they also form a prominent part of the local community, with their own church, school and consul. An additional bonus of the new link is that passengers on Aeroflot's Boeing 737s will have a choice of between 40 different kinds of foods - including vegetarian meals, muslim dishes, and kosher meat, as well as special menus for children or for diabetics.