News Sunday, JANUARY 17th, 1999

Radio Prague E-News, Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Czech Republic commemorates student who gave life to protest against Soviet invasion

The Czech Republic is commemorating national hero Jan Palach these days. Palach immolated himself in protest at the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia 30 years ago. Palach set fire to himself on January 16, 1969 in Prague to inspire Czechs and Slovaks to go out and protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia that crushed democratic reforms. During a ceremony in Palach's home town of Vsetaty in Central Bohemia on Saturday, Czech President Vaclav Havel unveiled a bust of Jan Palach at the local primary school. Other memorial ceremonies are planned in the next few days for Palach, who died of his burns on January 19, 1969.

Zeman praises Communists for budget

Premier Milos Zeman praised communist MPs for voting in favour of the 1999 state budget. Zeman sees their decision to support the government draft as a sign of their becoming more responsible. He noted, however, that the Czech Communist party should undergo a transformation like for example the communist party in Slovakia, where the communists are part of the ruling coalition. The state budget for 1999, presented by the minority Social Democratic cabinet, was passed late on Friday by votes of the Social Democratic Party, the Communists and the Christian Democrats.

Freedom Union remains in 4-coalition

The Freedom Union decided to stay in the coalition of four right- wing parties. The party leadership on Saturday did not heed the party's MPs call for leaving the coalition because of a controversy with a coalition partner, the Christian Democrats. The Freedom Union MPs were upset by the fact that the Christian Democrats supported government draft of the state budget for 1999 alongside with the Communists. Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said however, it was necessary to set up new rules for the coalition which would ban any cooperation with the Communist party.

Czech deputy minister threatens Canada visa retaliation

In reaction to Canada's refusal to drop the entry visa requirement for Czech citizens, Czech Deputy foreign minister Martin Palous warned that the Czech Republic may soon retaliate with a visa requirement for Canadians. Palous, who is visiting Canada to discuss security and immigration issues, added that the matter will be decided by the Czech cabinet some time this year. Canada reimposed an entry visa requirement on Czechs in 1997 after a wave of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, the majority of them being of Roma origin. The Czech government did not retaliate at the time because, according to Palous, it recognised that the fault was on the Czech side. Nevertheless, he said the situation improved, so that this one-sided policy cannot continue.

Clean hands campaign results in March - Zeman

Premier Zeman expects the first results of the anti-corruption "clean-hands" campaign to be available in March. The campaign was one of the main attractions in the Social Democratic Party's election programme. Zeman said the government committee for the protection of economic interests was currently working on more than 300 cases and first lawsuits are expected to be filed within one or two months.

Tennis-Players agree to wait on Korda drugs case

The world's leading male tennis players have dismissed talk of possible protest action over Czech player Petr Korda's positive drug test and will await the outcome of court cases, players and officials said on Saturday. ATP Tour chief executive officer Mark Miles rejected speculations about a possible player boycott of the Australian Open, which begins in Melbourne on Monday. He said the players were content to await the outcome of the ITF's appeal against the lenient sentence on the player and for Korda's challenge to that appeal. The International Tennis Federation announced in December that Korda had tested positive for the performance-enhancing steroid nandrolone at Wimbledon. Under ITF rules the offence carries a customary penalty of a one-year ban, but Korda was only stripped of the 100,000 USD-prize and the ranking points he earned at Wimbledon, a penalty seen by some players as too lenient.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a mostly clear and relatively warm day, with afternoon highs ranging from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.