News Sunday, FEBRUARY 20th, 2000

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Hello and a very warm welcome to Radio Prague. I´m Rob Cameron, and we begin the programme with a short news bulletin. First the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now for the news in more detail.

Kasal defends Vienna trip: 'EU membership impossible without People's Party'

The leader of the opposition Christian Democrats has said Czech membership of the European Union will be impossible without the support of Austria's conservative People's Party. Christian Democrat leader Jan Kasal paid a controversial visit to Vienna on Friday for talks with People's Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel, who was recently appointed as Austria's new Chancellor. Mr Schuessel has been accused of driving Austria into international isolation after entering government with Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party. Mr Kasal and two senior party colleagues visited Vienna in defiance of Prague's Social Democrat government, which has frozen high-level contacts with Austria.

Gross confirms candidature for Interior Minister post

The parliamentary leader of the ruling Social Democrats, Stanislav Gross, has confirmed he is a candidate for the post of Interior Minister. The admission came in an interview with the Czech daily Pravo on Saturday. The thirty-year-old former train driver is set to replace the current Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich, who will probably retire for health reasons. Prime Minister Milos Zeman has kept details of his forthcoming cabinet reshuffle tightly under wraps, however, to the anger of several ministers believed to be on the list. Mr Gross himself said he was embarrassed by Mr Zeman's continuing refusal to announce details of the reshuffle.

Havel pardons 19-year-old for selling marihuana to friends

President Vaclav Havel has pardoned a nineteen-year-old man who was sentenced to four years in prison for selling marihuana to friends. Stanislav Pobuda was arrested and charged after selling eighteen marihuana cigarettes to three friends, and has spent the last seven months in custody. The verdict, handed down under the country's highly repressive new drugs legislation, was criticised by lawyers, human rights groups and the head of the government's own anti-drugs commission.

French police arrest Slovaks in charge of Czech prostitute ring

Police in the town of Strasbourg in eastern France have arrested three Slovak men in charge of a Czech prostitute ring. Police say the men had brought some 50 Czech prostitutes to the town in the last six months. Local residents have held demonstrations on two occasions to protest against the presence of prostitutes from Eastern Europe and demand tougher measures from the authorities.

Vetchy backs Macedonian NATO bid

The Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy has assured the Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov that the Czech Republic will give the country its full support in its bid to join NATO. Mr Vetchy returned to Prague on Friday after a visit to the Macedonian capital Skopje, where he held talks with Mr Dimitrov on NATO enlargement and security in the Balkans. The Czech Republic celebrates its first anniversary as a NATO member in just under one month's time.

Weather

And I´ll end as usual with a quick look at Sunday's weather forecast. And it will be another mostly cloudy day with snow in places. Daytime temperatures will reach a maximum of four degrees Celsius, falling to just below zero at night.

I'm Rob Cameron and that's the end of the news.