News Saturday, MARCH 14th, 1998

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Radio Prague e-news: March 13, 1998 Written/read by: Ray Furlong

Those are the headlines, I'm Ray Furlong, and now the news in more detail.

ODS/inflation

The Civic Democratic Party, or ODS, believes the government's programme of price deregulation is going to cause record levels of inflation. ODS parliamentary leader Vlastimil Tlusty told journalists that the party stood for deregulation at a more gradual pace which would not leave families in an impossible financial situation. This had been the policy of the former government, headed by ODS leader Vaclav Klaus, he added. However, the Association of Property Owners has criticised the level of rent deregulation as too slow, stating that the government should have gone for a 100 percent increase in rent prices rather than the 27 percent agreed this week.

Church/romanies

The Catholic Church is to issue an official position on the situation of the Czech Romany minority. Czech Bishops' Conference spokesman Daniel Herman said the Church should stand up for Romanies, and would appeal to churchgoers to change racist attitudes in society. "The Catholic Church," he said, "is aware that it must make its voice heard." Herman went on to say that true Christians could not possibly vote for parties with racist programmes - a thinly-veiled reference to the far-right Republican Party. He also said that most Czech Romanies were Catholics, although few were active.

Amber Room

Part of Peter the Great's Amber Room, stolen by the Wermacht from a palace near Leningrad in 1941, could be locked away in the hills of north Bohemia. The mayor of a small German town near the border has said there are a number of reasons to believe that the legendary treasure, which went missing as the Red Army advanced in 1945, was hidden near the Czech town of Hora Svata Katerina. Towards the end of the war a number of military transports were taken to caves in the hills near the town, and some of these caves were sealed by explosions. There were also good rail connections for other parts of the Tsar's jewel-studded room to be taken there. Some historians have argued that the Amber Room was destroyed in fighting in 1945, but the recent discovery of a piece of it near Hamburg has added weight to the theory that the Nazis hid it in the last days of hostilities.

Klaus/tennis

And finally, the former prime minister Vaclav Klaus is to run for president - of the Czech Tennis Association. He will have four opponents in the election, which is expected to be a tight-run race. But the ODS leader is no stranger to tough elections - or to hard-fought matches on the tennis court. Klaus is a well-known tennis-lover, and has even pitched his forehand and backhand skills against that guru of monetarist economics, Milton Friedman. Whether he can overcome the odds and win the unpaid post as head of Czech tennis will be decided in voting on Saturday or Sunday.