News Saturday, JUNE 17th, 2000

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Armed police occupy headquarters of IPB

Armed police have occupied the headquarters of one of the Czech Republic's biggest financial institutions - Investicni a Postovni Banka or IPB, as central bank officials placed it under forced administration. Masked officers armed with pistols and sub-machine guns entered the bank's headquarters in Prague's Senovazne square shortly before noon on Friday. They were accompanied by an administrator appointed by the Czech National Bank to take control of IPB's affairs. A central bank spokesman said all IPB branches remained open, and assured customers that their savings were not in danger. Thousands of customers began withdrawing money from IPB on Monday amid rumours that the bank was in serious financial difficulties. IPB is one of the country's big three banks, with the largest number of customers in the Czech Republic. It was bought recently by a subsidiary of the Japanese group Nomura.

Czech Television news chief resigns amid claims of political pressure

The head of news at the country's public television corporation, Czech Television, has resigned, amid claims that the station is being subjected to political pressure. Zdenek Samal left his post on Thursday after refusing to broadcast the station's response to claims in a Czech newspaper that the host of a political discussion programme had been sacked following complaints about the programme from the leader of the main opposition Civic Democrats, Vaclav Klaus.

Czechs all but eliminated from Euro 2000 after defeat by France

The Czech football team have been defeated two goals to one by France, all but ending the country's hopes of going through to the quarter-finals of the Euro 2000 football championships. After equalising in the 35th minute with a penalty, the Czech Republic looked capable of defeating the world champions, but France clinched the game with a goal by Youri Djorkaeff 15 minutes into the second half.

Freedom Union disbands Brno branch following scandal

The Freedom Union, a right-of-centre opposition party, has disbanded its Brno organisation following allegations of serious fraud. The move, taken after an overnight meeting on Thursday, follows claims that rival camps recruited fictitious members to increase their support within the local party. Party leader Karel Kuehnl says a commission led by Senator Jan Ruml will examine the possibility of reforming the Brno organisation. The Freedom Union is a member of a coalition of four centre-right opposition parties.

Vedrine: Czechs among best prepared for EU membership

The French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, has said the Czech Republic is one of the best-prepared candidates for membership of the European Union. Following talks in Prague with his Czech counterpart, Jan Kavan, Mr Vedrine also said there was no truth in claims that France was seeking to delay the EU expansion process.

Far-right leader sentenced for Holocaust denial

The leader of the far-right National Alliance, Vladimir Skoupy, has been given a one-year suspended sentence for denying the existence of the Holocaust. Mr Skoupy made the comments at public meetings of the organisation, a banned far-right group with a strong skinhead following.

Pilot killed in military jet crash

A Czech military aircraft has crashed in south east Moravia, killing the pilot. The Su-22 fighter-bomber crashed on Friday near a military airfield, as it was returning from a NATO exercise in Germany. Friday's accident is the latest in a string of crashes involving the Czech airforce, which is equipped with an ageing fleet of Russian aircraft. Lack of funding has delayed plans to buy Western-made fighters.

Weather

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather. Saturday will be a wet day here in the Czech Republic, with early morning lows of between three and seven degrees and afternoon highs from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Sunday will be warmer, with maximum temperatures of around 22 degrees.

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