News Saturday, NOVEMBER 07th, 1998

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Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Ray Furlong, and we begin with a look at the news headlines.

Those are the headlines - now the news in more detail.

The Czech cabinet was scheduled to begin finalising the details of next year's budget at a special session late on Friday evening. The original budget was defeated in Parliament, but the new one - with an even bigger deficit - looks set to go through after an alleged deal between the Social Democrat government and the opposition Christian Democrats. The deal has been criticised by the main opposition party, former premier Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democrats, and Klaus has also mocked the decision to hold a night-session. "During nine years of rule," he said, "previous governments held just three night-time sessions." These, he added, were only in times of crisis.

The new Slovak leader, Mikulas Dzurinda, has said he regards relations with the Czech Republic to be of fundamental importance and that he expects his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, to visit him in Bratislava by the end of the month. Dzurinda was speaking in Brussels after talks with the head of the European Commission, Jacques Santer. He said talks with Zeman would concern both bilateral relations and the question of European integration. In further signs of improving relations between Bratislava and Prague, Czech President Vaclav Havel is making a working visit to Slovakia on Saturday afternoon - and the Czech government's human rights guardian Petr Uhl met with his Slovak counterpart Pal Csaky on Friday.

Helmut Zilk, the embattled former mayor of Vienna accused of collaborating with Czechoslovakia's communist-era secret police the StB, has received another show of support. After backing from Austria's President and Chancellor, he has now been defended by the speaker of the Vienna Parliament Heinz Fischer - who said the charges were unacceptable and that Zilk must be allowed to see the StB file on him. Czech law does not allow this. Meanwhile, back in Prague, Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich has again attacked the Office for the Investigation of the Crimes of communism - which is suspected of having leaked the information about Zilk's alleged StB activities. Grulich said an investigation had found the Office to have serious shortcomings in its finances, management, and security system. He also warned a new investigation might lead to sackings from the Office.

Service was stopped on the Prague metro's B line on Friday afternoon after a fire at the central Mustek station. Flames lept out from underneath a train as passengers were getting out, but luckily no-one was hurt. Firemen put out the flames and evacuated the station. Experts are now examining what caused the fire.

The Environment Minister of the state of Upper Austria, Erich Haider, has suggested that Austria and the European Union should pay for three gas-fired power stations to be built in the Czech Republic - so that the construction of the Temelin nuclear plant can be abandoned. "Good advice is not enough - nuclear power must be bought out," he said, outlining a plan which would cost over six billion crowns. However, the Environment Minister of the central government in Vienna, Barbara Prammer, is said to be reserved about the idea of using Austrian public funds - although she is also a firm opponent of Temelin.

And finally, a quick look at the weekend weather outlook - it seems there might be a bit of sunshine on Saturday, with temperatures a bracing five to nine degrees celsius - dropping to as low as minus two overnight. Sunday might be a bit warmer, but only by a couple of degrees and temperatures overnight again threaten to drop below freezing. And that's the news.