News Sunday, SEPTEMBER 13th, 1998

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

Budget consultations

The Social Democratic Party leadership is holding emergency consultations to try and clear up differences over next year's budget. The bone of contention is the size of the planned deficit. Some ministers , including the premier, are in favour of a restrictive budget with a deficit of no more than 15 billion crowns, that is 0,8 percent of the national GDP. Others headed by the deputy premier for economic issues Pavel Mertlik claim such a budget proposal is unrealistic and threatens to further undermine the country's economy. They are demanding a deficit of at least 18,6 billion crowns.

US government wants broadcasts to Iraq

The US government is seeking Czech approval for Radio Free Europe broadcasts to Iraq. According to the US embassy's chief information officer Jocelyn Greene the official request has now been handed over to the Czech foreign ministry . She said there was no deadline by which the government had to make known its decision on this matter. However, the issue is expected to be high on the agenda of President Havel's upcoming visit to the United States. A group of US Senators have written to the Czech president asking him to urge the Social Democrat government to be more forthcoming in this matter. Foreign minister Jan Kavan will be accompanying President Havel on this visit.

ODA blasts government

The Civic Democratic Alliance claims that Prime Minister Zeman's Social Democrat Cabinet is doing immeasurable damage to the country's economy and foreign policy. Party leader Daniel Kroupa told a party gathering that in its first weeks in office the Zeman cabinet had made more political gaffes than that of all previous governments combined and that its economic decisions were a disaster. He cited in particular the personnel changes in state owned firms and the planned deficit budget for 1998. Not having won any seats in the Lower House, the Civic Democratic Alliance has addressed its complaints to what it calls the constructive opposition in Parliament with which it has aligned itself in order to bolster its chances in the upcoming Senate elections. The party ruled out the possibility of a merger or alliance with the Civic Democratic Party after it entered into an opposition agreement with the Social Democrats.

Expo 98 - photo competition

Czech photo-reporter Eliska Jilkova is one of the three award-winners of the Expo 98 photo competition in Lisbon. The competition was organized by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the photos Jilkova entered were of young addicts undergoing therapy in Czech help centres. The two other winners are Derek Jackson from Great Britain and Mathieu Belin from France.

Prague Autumn Music Festival

Verdi' Requiem opened the 8th annual Prague Autumn Music Festival in the Czech capital on Friday night. Music lovers will be able to choose from 16 concerts between now and September 27th. Among the invited players and ensembles are violinist Sergei Stadler, cellist Rafael Wallfisch, guitarist Manuel Barrueco, soprano Marina Vyskvorkina, the London Mozart Players or the Austrian Wiener Concert- Verein.

Finally a look at the weather here in Central Europe: it has been a dismally grey and rainy weekend so far and the outlooks are not any better. Monday temperatures are forecast at between 13 and 18 degs. C. and rainshowers are expected across the Czech Republic.