News Thursday, FEBRUARY 19th, 1998

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News 19.2.98

Radio Prague E-News Date: 19 February 1998 Written/read by: Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Skalicky still planning resignation

Deputy Premier and Environment Minister Jiri Skalicky said on Wednesday he would ask President Vaclav Havel to accept his resignation which he offered on Monday.

Skalicky wants to resign because of unclear circumstances of his Civic Democratic Alliance's funding in 1995-96. President Havel gave him a week to refute the suspicion that the ODA was involved in tax evasion by accepting sponsorship donations via a cover-up company seated in the British Virgin Islands.

Skalicky said he did not believe that he could reveal something new by Monday. He said he would neither contact former Industry and Trade Minister and ODA deputy chairman Vladimir Dlouhy who seems to know the most about the mysterious party sponsoring. "I'm not going to do anything any more," Skalicky said.

Government is ready for military action against Iraq

The Czech government supports a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, but is ready to join allies in a possible military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein, the foreign and defence ministers, Jaroslav Sedivy and Michal Lobkowicz said on Wednesday.

Lobkowicz said Czech assistance could rest in consenting to military aircraft flying over Czech territory and in providing food, medicines, water treatment substances and top-level chemical and radiological analyses specialists.

Minister Lobkowicz said the dispatch of a specialist unit or a field hospital with medical staff required approval from the parliament.

Havel undergoes minor throat surgery

Czech President Vaclav Havel underwent a minor operation on Wednesday to close a small hole that had opened in the president's throat following surgery for lung cancer in 1996.

Doctor Pavel Voska told reporters that the surgeons had not discovered a fistula as expected, but pockets of air in the throat. These, according to doctors, might have been contributing to repeated bouts of bronchitis.

Miroslav Cerbak, head of the team of doctors looking after the president, said after the surgery that the president would be spending several more days in hospital and should be back in office in a week's time.

Russia sees NATO expansion as new reality - Pithart

Russian leaders "obviously respect the Czech Republic's heading for the North Atlantic Alliance," Czech Senate chairman Petr Pithart said on Wednesday. He was talking to journalists after a meeting with Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev.

They discussed European and world security, and problems encountered by the Russian army on its path of reform.

Mr. Pithart said that although it is obvious that the Russians are not enthusiastic about the prospect of the Czech Republic joining NATO, minister Sergeyev assured him that he saw NATO expansion as a new reality.

Earlier in the day, a Senate delegation led by Petr Pithart discussed strengthening of Czech-Russian economic relations with Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Premier Chernomyrdin assured the Czech delegation that Russia recognizes the debts of the former Soviet Union. However, Moscow has paid practically nothing from the three billion USD it owes to the Czech Republic and the two countries have been looking for ways to capitalise the debts.

Central Europe will cooperate in NATO ratification - MPs

The parliaments of the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary will cooperate in the process of ratification of their countries' entrance into NATO, the chairmen of the three parliaments' foreign and defence committees agreed on Wednesday.

Czech MP Vilem Holan and senator Michael Zantovsky told CTK that the participants had agreed to regularly meet once in six months. The next meeting was preliminarily scheduled for October in Warsaw.

Number of NATO membership supporters growing - IVVM poll

A total of 55 percent of Czechs are in favour of Czech Republic's entering NATO while 26 percent of them oppose it, according to the latest poll conducted by the Institute for public opinion research. This is a 12-percent increase since last November, when only 43 percent of Czech citizens favoured Czech NATO membership.

Romanies/punishment

Representatives of the Romany Association, Mikulas Curi and Jan Horvath demanded that racially motivated crimes be punished more severely. In a reaction to a Monday murder of a young Romany woman by neo-Nazis, they said it was high time for the society to start fighting racism.

According to information provided by police, three members of the neo-Nazi movement beat a 26-year old Romany woman unconscious and threw her into the river Elbe where she drowned. The three were arrested and charged with causing a grievous bodily harm, but politicians, human rights activists and Romany minority representatives called on the police to change the charges to a racially motivated murder.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. On Thursday, central Europe will be under the influence of a high pressure area from the South. It should be partially cloudy day, with daytime temperatures between 7 and 11 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Friday and Saturday: it should much the same as on Thursday, partially cloudy with temperatures around ten degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.