News Sunday, SEPTEMBER 26th, 1999
A very good welcome to Radio Prague. And we begin as usual with the news read by Libor Kubik. First the headlines.
A joint commission of Czech and German historians says the number of ethnic Germans, deported from Czechoslovakia after World War II, probably did not exceed the limit of 30,000. But the commission's member Hans Lember said on Saturday that figures quoted by various historical sources differs dramatically, with some sources indicating that hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans may have been expelled. The transfers, ordered by Czechoslovakia's legitimate government shortly after V-E Day, are know to have affected a considerable number of suspected ethnic German collaborators. Many of these expulsions are know to have been unauthorised. The joint Czech-German commission of historians was formed in early 1990 under an agreement between both governments. Its aim it to map the common history of both nations from the 18th century till this day.
Prague Mayor Jan Kasl has promised to the North American Rabbis' Board that the Calvary sculpture on Prague's Charles Bridge, which they say offends Jewish feelings, will be fitted with an explanatory note.
The plaque with the original text was installed in the late 17th century by a Prague Jew as a gesture of atonement for his alleged desecrating a crucifix which had offended him by attributing divine qualities to Jesus Christ.
A delegation of North American rabbis had learned the history of the plaque during a visit to Prague early this year. They had described the plaque as an obstacle to the reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity.
Mayor Kasl, who is visiting New York, said on Saturday the planned explanatory text was no rewriting of history but merely a gesture of tolerance.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan says his government will sign by the end of the year a contract on the purchase of the Czech National Building in New York's Manhattan Island for a symbolical price of one dollar.
Kavan, who was attending this year's session of the UN General Assembly in New York, said on Saturday the house requires renovation whose cost is estimated at under 10 million dollars. He said funding will be provided by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and partly also by the state budget.
The Association of Czech Americans, who own the building, have reserved the right to use one floor free of charge for their own activities. The National Building was conceived late in the last century as a centre of Czech expatriate activities in New York. It has been dilapidated for decades because its owners have failed to raise enough money for its reconstruction.
The opposition Freedom Union said on Saturday it was opposed to both the proposed constitutional changes, designed to curtail presidential powers, and the Social Democrat government's draft budget for next year.
The party leader Jan Ruml said this was in fact a no-confidence motion. He accused the Social Democrats and the main-opposition Civic Democratic Party of ex-premier Vaclav Klaus of plotting against President Havel and attempts to increase their power and influence. Ruml described the draft budget as untrustworthy and incomplete.
Dozens of masked assailants on Saturday attacked a skinhead rally in the town of Rakovnik. The skinheads belonging to the so-called National Alliance were holding a protest march which the police say was announced well ahead. The police took action when both warring parties began demolishing a local pub. Twenty-five arrests were made and the police said they were suspecting anarchists of provoking the incident.
Police in the Czech Republic were hunting on Saturday for a prisoner who was freed by two armed men while being transferred in a car from a Prague hospital to his prison cell.
The fugitive, a Czech national identified as Zdenek Svoboda, had been serving a jail sentence for armed robbery. The police have warned the public that the man may be armed. Extra police guards have been posted on all border checkpoints.
Police have also begun investigating an anonymous death threat to Communist Party leader Miroslav Grebenicek. The opposition Communists have filed a suit against an unknown caller threatening to kill Grebenicek in order to prevent a further strengthening of their party's influence. Mr Grebenicek has not asked for police protection. Our correspondent says the little- reformed Communists' approval ratings have lately catapulted their party to second place if elections were held today.
Tennis and the Czech Republic secured its participation on Saturday in the World Group of next year's Davis Cup by beating Uzbekistan in a match played in Tashkent.
And we end as usual with a look at the weather in the Czech Republic. Sunday will be a rather wet day with early morning lows between 11 and 15 Celsius and daytime highs around 20 degrees.
Monday will bring us morning fogs, early temperatures a chilling eight to 12 Celsius, and afternoon highs between 16 and 20 degrees.
I am Libor Kubik and that's the news.