News Saturday, SEPTEMBER 19th, 1998

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Ray Furlong, and we begin with the news headlines.

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

The Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, has praised President Havel's trip to the United States. Zeman said Havel's visit was an admirable success, and also had critical words for Monica Lewinsky - saying he would not comment on someone who did not wash their dress for two years. Havel, who is on the last day of his visit to the United States, has also defended President Clinton over the Lewinsky affair which it was feared could overshadow his trip. Meanwhile, Miroslav Macek of the opposition ODS party has also praised Havel's performance in Washington - particularly that Havel has lobbied for NATO expansion to take place before the original date set for next year.

Premier Zeman has met with the deputy leader of Slovakia's Democratic Left Party, Peter Weiss, just a week before Slovakia goes to the polls in parliamentary elections. Zeman said the meeting was a show of pre-election solidarity, stressing that his Social Democrats shared similar values to the Democratic Left Party. However, he also said the meeting should not be construed as interference in Slovakia's internal affairs. At a joint press conference, Weiss warned that Slovakia could witness the emmigration of young and talented people if the current Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar, wins next week's election.

The German Interior Minister, Manfred Kanther, has said the border with the Czech Republic is a focal point for illegal immigration into Germany. Speaking after meeting with German border officials in Chemnitz, Kanther announced that security would be tightened: an extra 480 men would be deployed on the border between the Czech Republic and Saxony alone. In connection with this, Kanther pointed to the conflict in the Serbian province of Kosovo - and warned that the European Union would not allow the Serbian government to unleash what he called a "war of plunder" leading to another wave of refugees, as in Bosnia.

A court in Ostrava has awarded long prison sentences to a six-man gang for a series of brutal armed robberies committed in the early 1990s. The gang leader, Ota Biederman, got life imprisonment for five murders, while other gang members were sent behind bars for periods between 12 and 25 years. The gang's first murder was committed in 1993, when a department store porter received 62 stab wounds before being strangled. Their last killing was two years later, when they were paid 150,000 crowns for assasinating a businessman. The gang members have appealed against the sentences.

And finally, the weekend weather is expected to be cloudy but without too much rain - which is good news for areas in eastern parts where river levels rose alarmingly earlier this week. Temperatures will range from between 13 and 18 degrees celsius during the day, and between four and eight degrees at night. And that's the end of the news.