News Thursday, JUNE 22nd, 2000

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik, and we start the program with a brief news bulletin. First the headlines:

Those were the headlines, now the news in more detail.

CZECH-YUGO-RAPPORTEUR

The United Nations' human rights investigator for former Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier says that Belgrade's crackdown on dissent could breed an explosive situation with grim consequences. However, Mr. Dienstbier, a former Czechoslovak foreign minister, also warned that in Kosovo, one ethnic-cleansing campaign has been replaced by another, aimed against ethnic Serbs this time.

He said in Belgrade on Wednesday that the events in Kosovo far exceeded the limits of understandable revenge of Albanians for Serb-incurred atrocities. He described the current anti-Serb drive in Kosovo as a well-organised campaign, and warned that Albanian extremists could destabilise the Balkans.

Mr. Dienstbier was recently attacked by the UN's civilian administrator of Kosovo Bernard Kouchner. Dienstbier's record was also questioned by Czech President Vaclav Havel.

CZECH-BANK-POLITICS

A senior official of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party says the minority Social Democrat government might fall if it fails to give a plausible explanation for Friday's armed occupation of the headquarters of the ailing IPB bank.

The newly-appointed administrator of IPB was escorted into the bank by armed police commandos wearing masks. The IPB, which found itself in serious difficulties earlier this month, was taken over on Monday by the Belgian-backed bank CSOB.

The Civic Democrats' second in command, Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer, said on Wednesday that the government's move must be investigated by parliament, and if it failed to explain its action properly, it could lose the support of the Civic Democrats - which keep the minority government in power under a controversial pact.

Top Civic Democrat officials have strongly criticised the government and the central bank for their handling of the situation in IPB.

CZECH-WEATHER-DROUGHT

The Czech Republic has been hit by an unprecedented heat-wave. Record breaking temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, that's over 90 Fahrenheit, are making life miserable especially for senior citizens and people suffering from cardiovascular complaints.

A record-high temperature of 36 degrees was reported from the West Bohemian city of Plzen on Wednesday.

Spells of hot and dry weather in recent weeks have forced farmers to race against time and prompted Czech officials to consider wheat imports to meet demand.

The Czech Ministry of Agriculture said on Wednesday that if there was a drastic decline in wheat output it was possible that wheat and related commodities would have to be imported.

The ministry estimates possible losses due to drought at just under 200 million Czech crowns.

CZECH-UK-INVESTMENT

The British Ambassador to Prague David Broucher has described the Czech Republic as a fast-growing economy with many untapped investment opportunities for British firms.

He was speaking in the North Moravian city of Ostrava on Wednesday to promote the British Trade International's campaign, Opportunity Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic is one of 12 world markets targeted by the British investment campaign.

CZECH-GOVT-RETIREMENT

The Czech cabinet has endorsed a bill which would tighten the conditions for early retirement and ease the rules for those employees who wish to stay at work past retirement age.

The official retirement age in the Czech Republic today is 60 years for men and 57 years for women. But experts agree this threshold should be progressively raised in compliance with EU rules.

CZECH-AUSTRIA-JEWISH

Czech and Austrian human rights activists on Wednesday unveiled the restored grave of a Jewish man falsely accused more than a century ago of the ritual murder of a Czech prostitute.

The grave at Vienna's Central Cemetery belongs to Leopold Hilsner, who spent 19 years in jail early this century after a court found him guilty of killing and dismembering a Christian peasant woman. His trial was held in an atmosphere of heated anti-Semitic sentiments and historians believe the accusations against him were invented.

The Czech scholar Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, who was later to become the first president of the independent Czechoslovakia, opposed the charges against Hilsner.

Jailed for life but pardoned in 1918, Hilsner spent the rest of his life in Vienna, surviving on hand-outs from the Czechoslovak embassy in Austria.

CZECH-EXTREMIST-RELEASE

Vladimir Skoupy, chairman of the far-right National Alliance which advocates anti- Semitic views, could be released from custody in three days' time if the State Attorney fails to appeal against the ruling of a district court in Rakovnik west of Prague.

Mr. Skoupy received a suspended one-year prison sentence on June 7 for promoting and propagating a movement with a manifestly racist programme.

CZECH-SAUDI-EXHIBIT

An exhibition highlighting 650 years of Prague's Charles University has opened in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Our correspondent says that the exhibition, jointly sponsored by the Czech embassy and the Royal Saudi Society for Youth Affairs, is receiving media attention since many Saudis plan to enroll for studies at Central Europe's oldest institution of higher learning.

CZECH-SOCCER-EURO

Football -- and the Czech Republic, finalists in 1996, bowed out of Euro 2000 on Wednesday evening with a 2-0 win over Denmark in group D in Liege thanks to two second-half goals from Liverpool striker Vladimir Smicer.

The Czechs' deserved win has no impact on the tournament as both teams were out after losing their first two games. But it at least gave Jozef Chovanec's team some reward after their good displays in the defeats against the Netherlands and France.

CZECH-WEATHER

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather.

The current heat-wave will culminate on Thursday when afternoon temperatures are expected to reach a tropical 34 degrees Celsius and over. Late in the afternoon, a cold front from the west should bring along scattered showers and thunderstorms, sending the night lows down to a balmy 19 degrees.

Friday will be a wet day with early morning lows between 12 and 16 Celsius and daytime highs from 20 to 24 degrees.

Saturday's maximum temperatures will be fairly low -- only between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius, dropping to between 10 and 14 degrees at night.

I'm Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.