News Thursday, MARCH 02th, 2000
Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.
The American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has refuted speculation that she might succeed Vaclav Havel as president of the Czech Republic.
In a statement released by the American embassy in Prague, the Czech-born Ms. Albright said she was not and would not be a candidate for the high office for which she was sure there would be no shortage of highly qualified Czechs.
An article in this week's Time magazine reported that Ms. Albright was seriously considering making herself available as a successor to President Havel when his term ends in three years' time. The magazine described her upcoming visit to the Czech Republic as resembling a page in a presidential campaign.
After more than half a century of endless disputes, Prague will finally erect a statue of Czechoslovakia's founding father and first president, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
It will be unveiled on March 7 -- 150 years after he was born -- by Czech President Vaclav Havel.
Masaryk's anniversary will be marked throughout the country and in his native town of Hodonin in Moravia in the presence of Madeleine Albright.
Here in Prague, an international conference will on Thursday start examining Masaryk's political legacy and its impact on modern European ideas.
The exodus of Czech Roma residents to Britain continued this week with another 24 Roma people and dependants leaving the North Moravian city of Ostrava in the past few days.
They said they were emigrating because of the sorry state of the Czech labour market and a failed system of granting government contracts to bidding companies.
Our correspondent says another wave of Roma emigration from the region is to be expected in May. The correspondent says that by then, Roma activists are planning to stage public protests against incompetent civil servants who they say are forcing them to leave the country.
A Briton facing child abuse charges here in the Czech Republic continued to defend himself before the Prague 2 District Court for another six hours on Wednesday until the hearings were adjourned.
Mr. Chris Denning and three other foreign nationals are facing charges of sexually abusing under- age boys and offering drugs to them.
Mr. Denning's defence speech has so far lasted an unbelievable 36 hours, during which he has attacked all testimonies against himself.
The State Attorney demands a medium-length prison sentence in the range between one and eight years, and an expulsion.
The trial continues on Monday.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament has passed into its third and final reading the government's draft state budget for this year. There have thus far been few reactions to the voting as the draft was widely expected to be endorsed. The final reading is scheduled for next Tuesday.
The passing of the Social Democrat cabinet's draft by the opposition was made conditional on a sweeping government reshuffle in which the opposition hopes Prime Minister Milos Zeman will replace at least five ministers.
The country is currently running on a provisional budget.
The Czech Republic is releasing 40,000 U.S. dollars in emergency aid to Mozambique and South Africa, which have been affected by disastrous floods.
The Czech foreign ministry said on Wednesday the aid would be dispatched through diplomatic channels.
Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano has urged the world to send more help for an estimated one million people displaced by the floods.
The Czech Senate has upheld legislation allowing this country to join the international sanctions against the Taleban-ruled Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The bill, passed by the lower house, has yet to be signed by the Czech president.
The Taleban, who enforce a radical form of Islam, have long been suspected by the international community of supporting terrorism. The international sanctions include the freezing of Afghanistan's foreign assets, a ban on flights to and from the country, as well as curbs on trade and economic exchange programmes.
An estimated 200 Orthodox Jews on Wednesday staged a protest outside the Czech embassy in London against plans to build an insurance company building on the site of a medieval Jewish cemetery in central Prague's Vladislavova Street.
The protesters called on Prague to respect human rights and leave the remains intact. A spokesman for the protesters said London's Orthodox community would seek a meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal.
The Prague Town Hall is due to discuss the issue later in the day.
Most Czechs consider the presence of the far-right Freedom Party in neighbouring Austria's government detrimental to their own country, Austria itself, and the European Union at large.
A poll just out reveals that only one Czech in ten believes that the Freedom Party could be bonus for Austria's international standing.
Meanwhile, Austrian foreign ministry spokesman Johannes Peterlik has said in an interview to the Czech news agency CTK that the resignation of Joerg Haider earlier this week could help his party to become a more pro-European entity.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan says his country is not opposed to dialogue with Sudeten German expellees but it sees the German government in Berlin as its only legitimate partner for discussion.
Sudeten Germans were Czechoslovakia's large ethnic community which was expelled en masse after the Second World War.
Mr. Kavan told Wednesday's Die Welt newspaper that while the decrees which sanctioned the expulsion cannot be revoked, they have long been outdated and ineffective.
Later on Thursday, Foreign Minister Kavan will meet his German counterpart Joschka Fischer in Berlin.
Rescuers in the town of Kutna Hora some 60 kilometres east of Prague have finally succeeded in saving an amateur cave-explorer who was trapped for more than 40 hours in a disused old mine near the town.
The 21-year-old man was rushed to hospital in serious condition. Our correspondent says he had been virtually buried alive under eight metres of collapsed beams and earth.
And finally, the weather.
Thursday will bring us a cold spell with scattered showers and sleet. Early morning lows around freezing point will give way to windy day here in the Czech Republic, with maximum temperatures between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius.
Friday and Saturday will be rather wet, with snow showers at higher elevations. Daytime highs on both days between 3 and 7 Celsius.
I am Libor Kubik and that's the news.