News Saturday, OCTOBER 16th, 1999

Radio Prague e-news: October 16, 1999 Written/read by: Ray Furlong

Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Ray Furlong, and we begin the programme with a bulletin of news. First the headlines.

Now the news in more detail.

The opposition leader Václav Klaus, has called for a new government to be formed by all the parties in Parliament except the communists, replacing the current minority government of Social Democrats. Klaus´s Civic Democratic Party has been allowing the Social Democrats to rule for the last 15 months, under a power-sharing agreement. But now Klaus has said the situation in the country cannot be solved by a minority government. His statement comes after a report was released this week by the European Union, strongly criticising Czech preparations for membership, and just as Parliament prepares to discuss next year´s budget.

Shortly after making his statement, Klaus held talks with the leaders of other smaller opposition parties. They insisted that Klaus must first tear up his agreement with the Social Democrats. However, Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said his party was ready to begin talks on possibly forming a new government - dubbed by Klaus a "Super Grand Coalition." The Prime Minister, Social Democrat leader Miloš Zeman, declined to comment on Klaus´s appeal. More talks between Zeman and Klaus are scheduled for Monday.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, has added his voice to international criticism of the wall in Ústí nad Labem dividing gypsies from other local residents. During a meeting in Strasbourg with the Czech Justice Minister, Otakar Motejl, he called on the Czech government to do all it could to remove the wall - which he called a "wall of shame." The comments come after sharp criticism on Thursday by European Commissioner Günter Verheugen. But the mayor of Ústí nad Labem, Ladislav Hruška, has reacted angrily to this. He said Verheugen´s comments were unacceptable - and that it was clear Verheugen had not spent much time learning the details of the problem.

The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, has said the country´s chances of joining the European Union are "close to zero" as long as the wall stands. But otherwise, in reaction to this week´s critical EU report, he insisted the Czech Republic could still meet it´s 2003 target date for joining the Union. He said the critical period would be the first six months of next year, and that cooperation between the government and Parliament would have to improve quickly.

The Municipal Court in Prague has given a ten-month suspended sentence to a former member of the communist-era secret police, the StB, for using violence during an interrogation in 1981. The charges were brought against the man, Josef Kafka, by his victim: popular dissident singer Vlastimil Tøešòák. The court found Kafka guilty of taking part in Tøešòák´s illegal arrest, of beating him around the face and head, and of stubbing a lighted cigarette on his hand.

Finally - the weekend weather. Expect mostly cloudy skies, with rain in some parts, and daytime temperatures between seven and eleven degrees Celsius. Nightime temperatures will fall to between four and minus one degree. And that´s the news.