News Sunday, SEPTEMBER 20th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: September 19, 1998 written/read by: Libor Kubik

Welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik in Studio 20 and we begin as usual with a brief news update on Czech affairs.

HAVEL-U.S.

Czech President Vaclav Havel has returned from his state visit to the United States.

One of the more dramatic moments of the visit, during which he threw his weight solidly behind his beleaguered American counterpart Bill Clinton, was Havel's announcement in Washington that he would resign if the government failed to provide financial guarantees to refurbish Prague's Congress Centre in time for the annual IMF and World Bank session planned for the year 2000.

Deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla expressed doubts on Saturday if Havel is really prepared to step down.

Almost half of the Czechs polled in a recent survey believe that the President should resign because of his health problems, and over ten percent of the respondents said he should step anyway, regardless of his health.

The figures were quoted on Saturday by the left-wing daily Pravo.

CZECH-U.S.-ALBRIGHT

The American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has confirmed her country's commitment to planned shortwave broadcasts to Iran and Iraq by the Prague-based, U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Albright, who late on Friday met with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan in Washington, admitted that the broadcasts, to be launched later in the year, could pose a security risk for the Czech Republic, and offered allround security assistance.

Social Democrat Kavan assured his American host that his country's foreign policy will not change in the wake of June's general election which brought his party to power.

CZECH-TOWN-CRIME

The funeral took place on Saturday of the Romany man shot dead last week in a conflict with a gang of ethnic Albanians in the northern Bohemian town of Varnsdorf.

The funeral of 33-year-old Jiri Bily, attended by about 200 members of the Roma community and a substantial police force, passed without incident.

District police chief Nikolaj Hrib has admitted that his people made a serious mistake by freeing all the Albanians they had held, although one of them was identified as the culprit by a number of witnesses.

A Romany activist told correspondents the Albanian gang had offered 100,000 German marks to the killed man's family if they don't sue.

Council of Europe specialists will arrive in the Czech Republic at the end of September for a fact-finding mission over the country's ethnic policy. At the invitation of the Czech government, they will visit places in northern Bohemia which have seen conflict erupt between local Czechs and the Roma ethnic group.

CZECH-ANTIFASCIST-DEMO

Over 200 young Czech antifascists marched through the country's second-biggest city Brno on Saturday to protest against various forms of racially motivated violence.

The organiser, Dusan Rosenbaum of the Antifa Movement, told a rally in a central square that racism and fascism were no longer directed solely against Jews, Gypsies and people of colour, but also against homosexuals, mentally handicapped people, ethnic groups, humanists and human rights fighters.

He accused the organs of state power of allowing racism to raise its head in public.

CZECH-WEATHER

Finally, the weather.

Sunday will be a partly cloudy day in the Czech Republic. We expect scattered showers, morning fogs and maximum daytime temperatures between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius.

At the start of the week, a high pressure area will bring us a warmer weather, but again with some scattered showers. Daytime highs on Monday will be from 15 to 19 Celsius, and on Tuesday between 15 and 21 degrees.

And that's the end of the news.