News Sunday, FEBRUARY 27th, 2000

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Nick Carey and this is the news. First, a look at the headlines.

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail:

Kuhnl elected head of the Freedom Union

At the annual congress of the right-of-centre Freedom Union party, Karel Kuhnl, who has been the party's acting chairman since his predecessor Jan Ruml stepped down in December last year, was formally elected chairman for the next two years. Mr. Kuhnl beat his only rival, Vladimir Mlynar, by a convincing majority. Mr. Mlynar has instead been voted in as the party's First Deputy Chairman. Mr. Kuhnl's election as chairman has been welcomed by the other three parties in the Four Party Alliance, and he repeated after his election that he does not exclude the possibility that he will be a candidate to lead the Four Party Alliance. Reactions from the ruling left-of-centre Social Democrats have been less enthusiastic to Mr. Kuhnl's election, saying that they do not expect any real changes from the party's new leadership.

Extreme right leader placed on remand

The leader of the extreme right party the National Alliance, Vladimir Skoupy, has been placed on remand pending trial. Mr. Skoupy is charged with spreading fascism. At a neo-Nazi demonstration held last week in support of the inclusion of Joerg Haider's far right Freedom Party in Austria's government, Mr. Skoupy was apparently seen wearing a uniform worn by applicants to join the SS during the Second World War. Mr. Skoupy may also face charges for denying the existence of the Holocaust at a National Alliance rally held in October. These charges were originally dismissed by the state prosecutor for the district in Prague where the demonstration took place, but this decision has been overruled by the regional state prosecutor.

Dvorak breaks European record

Czech athlete Tomas Dvorak has broken the European heptathlon record at indoor athletics championships in Belgium. Dvorak broke the existing record by six points, and came extremely close to breaking the world record. Dvorak finished well ahead of the rest of his opponents, but it was good news for another Czech competitor, Roman Sebrele, who took second place.

US says basic human rights upheld in the Czech Republic

In its annual report on human rights around the world, the United States State Department says that the Czech Republic upholds basic human rights. According to the report, however, there are still problems concerning the actions of the police, court proceedings, attitudes to women, but primarily concerning discrimination against the Roma minority, and the violent actions of neo-Nazi groups towards them. The Czech police, the report says, is riddled with corruption, and police officers traditionally take money from fines and place it directly into their own pockets. The police have also not taken strong enough action against those who attack the Roma. The Roma themselves, however, the report says, are not united behind a common programme, and have therefore not been able to put forward their own demands within the country's democratic structures.

US promises help for Czech firm

The United States is apparently willing to help Czech firm ZVVZ Milevsko find a replacement for an order to provide air conditioning equipment to a nuclear power plant in Iran. The order was cancelled by the Czech government following pressure from Western powers, who fear that the power plant in Bushehr could be used to boost Iran's nuclear capability. ZVVZ Milevsko's management claims that losing the order, worth up to 300 million dollars, could harm the company's future. In response, according to the spokeswoman for the American ambassador in Prague, Victoria Middleton, the US will endeavour to include the company in public tenders in America to provide similar equipment.

And finally the weather. Monday promises to be another warm day in the Czech Republic, with partially cloudy to clear skies. Temperatures during the day should range between eight and twelve degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night should be around zero degrees centigrade. The weather on Tuesday should be slightly colder, with the possibility of scattered rain showers. I'm Nick Carey, and that's the end of the news.