News Sunday, MARCH 12th, 2000
The Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, said on Saturday that he would ask President Havel next week to relieve Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta of his duties in the all-Social Democrat cabinet, citing a failure of an ambitious anti-corruption campaign he has been supervising.
Mr. Basta denies any wrongdoing. He said he would not resign but rather would have himself sacked and then seek an explanation.
Zeman announced on Friday he would sack four ministers, fulfilling a pledge to reshuffle his cabinet.
He said the ministers of transport and communications, of the interior and of regional development, together with the minister without portfolio responsible for security operations, would be removed from office.
The prime minister promised the long-planned and expected reshuffle would be carried out within one month, but he declined to say who would replace the four.
Floods from heavy rains and melting snow in the Czech Republic were reported receding on Saturday and many municipalities called off a state of emergency. But hydrologists have warned that the rainy weather, which is expected to last well into next week, might cause the rivers to swell again, although on a smaller scale.
Two people are known to have died during the floods and damage caused by the elemental disaster is estimated at more than 100 million crowns -- over three million U.S. dollars.
The country's largest river, the Elbe, is reported to have peaked in the early hours of Saturday. Most of the hundreds of people evacuated earlier this week were able to return to their homes.
The Czech Republic was the scene of disastrous floods in 1997 and 1998, when dozens of people were killed.
Czech President Vaclav Havel is in good shape after a bronchitis made him cancel all his official appointments for the next few days.
One of them was a trip to Poland planned for Sunday. Mr. Havel had been expected to attend celebrations in Gniezno, marking the 1,000th anniversary of the Polish state.
His spokesman said Havel would spend the next few days in home care for preventive reasons. He said the president's chronic bronchitis showed symptoms of worsening after a busy schedule which included talks and travels with the American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright early this week.
Havel has often suffered from respiratory illnesses since his imprisonment in Communist jails in the 1980s. He nearly died after a surgery in 1996 during which doctors took out a malignant tumour and a half of his right lung.
The leading Czech daily newspaper Lidove Noviny alleged on Saturday that its Moscow bureau may be kept under electronic surveillance by Russian secret services.
Bureau correspondent Petra Prochazkova said her telephone was behaving strangely and that it was probably bugged.
The newspaper has sent a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Embassy in Prague, requesting a thorough investigation of the case.
Independent sources in Moscow say Russia has a history of eavesdropping on foreign media and their correspondents.
And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather.
Sunday will be another wet day here in the Czech Republic with snow showers in the mountains and maximum daytime temperatures between four and eight degrees Celsius, dropping to slightly below freezing point in the night.
On Monday and Tuesday, we are expecting only scattered rain and snow showers and morning fogs. Daytime highs around 10 Celsius on both days.