News Sunday, JANUARY 23rd, 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:

Government and Civic Democrats reach agreement on five areas of co-operation

Following talks that lasted through much of Friday night between senior representatives of the Social Democrat government and the opposition Civic Democrats, the two parties said they had reached agreement on five areas of co-operation. The five areas which include the budget for 2000 - 2002, electoral reform and co-operation in parliament, were proposed in a previous meeting between the two parties last week. The opposition Civic Democrats keep the minority Social Democrat government in power through an agreement called the opposition pact, and the new areas of co-operation are seen as a way of strengthening this agreement. The deal that was worked out on Friday night need to be approved by the leaderships of both parties before it can take effect, and this will take place before the first reading of the government's third draft budget proposal in parliament this week.

Earlier in the day on Friday, the Social Democrat government evaluated its performance over the eighteen months since it took office, and Prime Minister Milos Zeman said that his four Deputy Prime Ministers were all fulfilling their tasks well. As to whether or not there will be a cabinet reshuffle in the near future, Mr. Zeman said that this was up to his party to decide, and not the opposition Civic Democrats.

Patriotic Front against placard explaining Hebrew inscription on Charles Bridge

An extreme right-wing party, the Patriotic Front, has objected to the placement of a placard explaining a Hebrew inscription on the Charles Bridge in Prague. The Hebrew inscription was placed on a statue called Calvary at the end of the 17th century by a member of the Jewish community, apparently as a punishment for slandering the cross. The inscription has caused controversy within the international Jewish community, as it acknowledges the deity of Jesus Christ, which is against the Jewish faith. Prague's mayor, Jan Kasl, proposed placing a placard on the bridge to explain the history behind it, a move which was welcomed by the Jewish community. In a letter to the mayor, the chairman of the Patriotic Front's regional headquarters in Prague, David Machacek, says that his party will hold demonstrations or even tear down the placard if the plan goes ahead. He claims that this is proof that Prague is being turned into a Jewish city, and that the Jewish lobby is far too powerful. The mayor has rejected these claims, saying that this is merely an effort to understand past events.

Czech Republic still affected by heavy snowstorms

Large areas of the Czech Republic are still affected by the heavy snowstorms that hit the country on Friday. Many roads in the Krkonose Mountains near to the German border are still impassable, and mountain rescue officials have warned that there is a great risk of avalanches in this area. While major roads throughout most of the country have been cleared of snow, many small roads are still blocked. Up to one foot of snow fell in some areas, and a state of emergency has been declared in some regions, with the army being called in to help stranded motorists and villages.

And in a similar vein, it's time for the weather forecast. Over the next few days we should see overcast skies with occasional snow showers. Temperatures during the day should range between minus four and zero degrees centigrade. Temperatures during the night range from between minus three to minus seven degrees centigrade. And that was the news.