News Saturday, MARCH 13th, 1999

Radio Prague E-News Written/read by: Libor Kubik

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

Blast wounds seven in Czech town

Seven people were seriously injured in a bomb explosion at a police station in a busy shopping mall in the Moravian town of Prerov on Friday.

Police said that the blast, shortly before the close of business time, was probably caused by a booby trap. Several policemen were reportedly among the wounded, and the area remains cordoned off. Details are still coming in.

Last week, a bomb blast wounded one person in a Prague hospital.

Czech Republic enters NATO ten years after revolution

One of the Czech Republic's main strategic and political goals - NATO membership - has come true 10 years after the Velvet Revolution.

The Czech Republic, together with Poland and Hungary on Friday became the first former members of the Soviet bloc to join NATO, expanding the Western military alliance from 16 to 19 members.

At an induction ceremony in the hometown of late U.S. President Harry Truman, Foreign Ministers Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, Janos Martonyi of Hungary and Bronislaw Geremek of Poland signed formal documents of accession.

Czech foreign minister hails NATO membership

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan stressed his country wants to be a very active member of the alliance. He thanked the United States for its role in founding an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918, in the process of European integration after World War II, and in admitting the Czech Republic into NATO.

He said the admission was a guarantee that his country would never again become the powerless victim of a foreign invasion.

The reference was to the dismembering of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis 60 years ago this month, and the Soviet-led Warsaw pact invasion in 1968.

Kavan spoke in favour of a strong Transatlantic alliance, capable of solving the problems of the 21st century.

He said his country believes that Europe must play a more active role in tackling crises on its territory.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described the act of accession as not an event but a process.

NATO envoys welcome group's three new members

The NATO allies on Friday welcomed the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to full membership of the North Atlantic Treaty organisation and said the alliance's door was open to further expansion.

In a statement, NATO's 16 permanent ambassadors said in Brussels that NATO and Europe were starting a new chapter in their history.

In a personal message, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said he sees the significance of the admission act as a triumph of justice over history.

He said he looked forward to greeting the prime ministers of the three new allies at a flag-raising ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 16.

Solana said their accession would mark more than the fourth and largest enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next month.

Havel addresses army generals

Officials and employees of the army's general staff assembled in Prague on Friday to hear President Vaclav Havel say that membership in NATO will add a new dimension to the security of the Czech Republic.

Havel said he was convinced the army's good performance would continue without abate.

Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy said his country wants to prove that its accession into NATO is not motivated only by short-term objectives.

Parliament speaker on accession

Lower House speaker Vaclav Klaus, who is on an official visit to India, has described his country's formal joining NATO as a symbolic moment which enabled the Czech Republic to take its rightful place in Europe.

Klaus, who was in New Delhi, said on Friday that this was a very important day for the people of the Czech Republic.

In a prerecorded interview broadcast by Czech Radio, Klaus described his country's entry to NATO as a collective achievement of all politicians and people outside politics, all democratic parties and all governments since the collapse of communism 10 years ago.

He said radio interview it would be unfair if any one of them tried to snatch the booty called NATO enlargement for himself.

President Havel had said earlier that he considered his country's accession to NATO his personal triumph.

Czechs celebrate NATO entry

Supporters and opponents of the Czech Republic's accession to NATO today rallied to mark a day which President Havel said was a pivotal moment in the country's history.

A crowd of several hundred gathered in spring sunshine in Prague's Winston Churchill Square to celebrate joining the Western defence alliance. Many Czechs hope this event will mean that their frequently fought-over nation will never again be occupied.

But a small group of Communists handed out anti-NATO leaflets and held banners reading "NATO does not mean peace" and "We do not want to die for the interests of the market."

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.