News Saturday, SEPTEMBER 05th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news Date:4-5.9.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm David Vaughan. First the news.

Head of Railways Sacked

The head of the state-owned Czech Railways, Vladimir Sosna, has been removed from office on the recommendation of the government. The announcement was made by his appointed successor, Dalibor Zeleny. The chairman of the railways' administrative board, Jaroslav Vrana, said that the reason for the move was Mr Sosna's flawed philosophy of how to reform the loss-making railway network. Mr Sosna acknowledged that he does not share the new government's vision of the railways' future. The decision was immediately condemned by former transport minister, Martin Riman, who described the sacking as a party political purge, that had nothing to do with attempt to make Czech Railways more efficient.

Explosion Injuries

A man who was seriously injured after an explosion in a street in central Prague on Thursday night has had both legs amputated and remains in hospital with 50 percent burns and severe shock. Police have begun an investigation into what appear to be parts of a bomb found among the debris after the explosion, which shattered windows in the surrounding area. They suspect that the injured man may himself have planted the bomb, as investigations have revealed that he had long been fascinated with explosives. The blast occurred shortly before midnight in Legerova Street near Wenceslas Square.

Opposition Agreement is Constitutional

The leadership of the largest opposition party, the Civic Democrats, has welcomed a decision by the Constitutional Court, which has confirmed the legality of the so-called opposition agreement, under which the party has agreed to tolerate the current Social Democrat government. Other opposition parties had claimed that the agreement was unconstitutional and undemocratic, but the court concluded that it was nothing more than a deal signed between parties, and was of no legal consequence.

Unions Want a Say

The Confederation of Trade Unions has said that it wants a say in deciding next year's state budget. A confederation spokesman said that the unions would also like regular monthly meetings with management and with government representatives. He listed the minimum wage and pension insurance among priorities for discussion. Future discussions between the three partners are expected to be chaired by the labour and social affairs minister, Vladimir Spidla.

Klaus Against Management Changes

Opposition leader Vaclav Klaus has said that his Civic Democrats are concerned about and strongly opposed to the appointment of people close to the new government to key positions in state-owned companies. However, he made it clear that he did not share the view of deputy party leader, Ivan Langer, who said that he felt the government's latest industrial appointments were reason enough for the Civic Democrats to cancel their agreement to tolerate the government. Mr Klaus also firmly denied that his reason for objecting to the changes was because he would prefer to see people close to his own party in powerful positions in industry.

Joint Candidacy

The Czech Republic's newest political alliance, made up of smaller right-of-centre parties, including the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, has agreed to put forward joint candidates in Prague's city elections. This follows on from their decision also to stand together in the forthcoing elections to the upper house of parliament, the Senate. The alliance was formed amid fears that the two largest parties, the ruling Social Democrats and Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democrats would try to push the smaller parties from the political scene.

Higher Pension and Insurance Contributions

The labour and social affairs minister, Vladimir Spidla, has announced that he plans legislation to increase pension and national insurance contributions by a total of 2.4 percent. The decision was immediately criticised by the right-of-centre Freedom Union, which said that tax increases were not the right way to make up for shortfalls in the state budget.

Czech Volunteers in Bosnia

A hundred and twenty Czech volunteers are to leave for Bosnia this weekend to help oversee the country's general election scheduled for the 12th and 13th of September. They are being sent in the framework of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and will form part of a team of three thousand. A similar group was sent during last year's local elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Weather

And a quick look at the weather...

Saturday looks set to be overcast with showers and more persistent rain, and temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. The unsettled weather looks set to linger throughout the weekend and on Monday, and if anything, temperatures will be a little lower than on recent days.

And on that cheerful note, that's the end of the news.