News Saturday, JUNE 27th, 1998

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Radio Prague e-news: June 26, 1998 Written/read by: Ray Furlong

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

And now the news in more detail.

Coalition-talks

Leaders of the Freedom Union have confirmed reports that the Social Democrat leader, Milos Zeman, tried to gain their support in efforts to form a new government by promising to give former foreign minister Josef Zieleniec the same post in the new cabinet. Zieleniec could be seen as a compromise figure with which Zeman s Social Democrats would secure the backing of the right-of-centre Freedom Union. However, leaders of the Freedom Union said even Zieleniec s presence in the cabinet would not change their position and that they would not support a Social Democrat government. Meanwhile, Zeman has repeated his preferred option of a minority government in coalition with the Christian Democrats tolerated by other parties. And President Vaclav Havel has announced that he will hold talks with the leaders of the Freedom Union and Christian Democrats on Monday to discuss this possibility.

Unions

The crisis staff established by ten public sector unions, including representatives of teachers and health workers, has reiterated its demand that the caretaker government led by prime minister Josef Tosovsky holds talks on wages. The staff sent Tosovsky a new request and pointed out that real wages had fallen by 7.3 percent in the first quarter of this year. The unions also stressed the urgency of their wage demands by recalling that from the middle of next week there will be large increases in the price of housing rents, electricity, gas and other amenities. The Tosovsky government has repeatedly rejected demands for better pay in the public sector, despite a recent one-hour warning strike. In their latest statement, the unions also said that they would not give any new government 100-days grace before pressing their wage demands.

Education

Ministers of education from the 15 European Union member states and 10 former communist countries have gathered in Prague to discuss the role of education in the process of European integration. In opening speeches, Czech senate leader Petr Pithart and British education expert Michael Barber underlined the importance of education for ingraining the values of democracy and civic society. Pithart said Czech education was still struggling with the legacy of the communist era - which he said was an emphasis on learning facts without teaching children how to apply their knowledge, as was the case in Western Europe. You can hear a more detailed report on the conference after this news bulletin.

Mach

The former owner of the Sparta Prague football team has given himself up to the police on charges of economic crime. Petr Mach was being hunted by the police for allegedly blocking the payment of large bank loans worth over a hundred million crowns. He is now being held for questioning. Mach protests his innocence - but police investigator Ivo Prokel said the former football tycoon would need good arguments, because he had plenty of proof of ill- doing. Mach is also being investigated for insurance fraud and for not paying customs duties on the illegal export of cars.

Weather

And we end with a look at the weekend weather. Unfortunately, the meteorological office says that on Saturday we can expect overcast skies and rain - although temperatures will peak at between 23 and 27 degrees. On Sunday a cold front moving in from the West will bring more cloud and more rain. Temperatures will be as high as 22 and 26 degrees, and are expected to continue falling on Monday as well. And that s the news.