News Thursday, MARCH 25th, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail

Czech leadership urges renewal of talks

Amidst NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, the Czech leadership is urging Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to go back to the negotiating table. The Czech government has issued a statement expressing grave concern over the failure of diplomacy . It notes that the decision to use military force against Yugoslavia was made before the Czech Republic's accession to NATO and the Czech government views it as an attempt to prevent further bloodshed and human suffering in Kosovo. President Havel said NATO had been left with no alternative, and the airstrikes were a sign that the democratic world was not indifferent to the atrocities in Kosovo or unaware of the threat of the conflict's spilling over to other Balkan states.

State Security Council meets over Kosovo crisis

A meeting of the Czech Republic's State Security Council took place Wednesday evening in connection with the Kosovo crisis and Ukraine's unexpected decision to end its non-nuclear status. The meeting focused largely on security issues and conditions under which the Czech army would be put on alert. Since, the Czech army has heightened security around key military sites as well as increasing security at the country's eastern border. Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan rejected the idea that in view of NATO airstrikes the Czech Republic was now in a state of war with Yugoslavia. Kavan further stressed that the military action was not directed against the Serbian people, nor was it a form of international support for the Kosovo Liberation Army. The aim of the airstrikes is to prevent further bloodshed and prepare conditions for future stability in the region, the foreign minister stressed.

Klaus questions NATO's decision

The Speaker of the Czech Lower House Vaclav Klaus was the only top- level Czech politician to openly question NATOs decision. Klaus said he was bitterly disappointed by the alliances decision to use force and suggested that not all diplomatic channels had been explored. Meanwhile, Jiri Dienstbier, the former Czechoslovak foreign minister who is now a UN envoy for human rights in Kosovo, has expressed the view that the bombing of Yugoslav military targets is a half-way solution that stands little chance of producing results. In an interview for Czech Radio Dienstbier described Milosevic as a wily politician who would only ever do what he wanted and who's plans were carefully calculated to boost his own position in the country. Dienstbier has recently expressed the view that it would be politically more prudent if the international community were to send ground forces to occupy the province and implement a political solution by force. He added that in his view Jugoslavia would accept such a presence if Russia were strongly represented.

Necas - Kosovo

Chairman of Parliament's Defense and Security committee Petr Necas told the ctk newsagency that resolving the Kosovo crisis had become a priority for European security and stability. Macedonia and Albania have been sending out warning signals of the conflict spreading, there is the possibility of Bulgaria and Greece becoming involved, Necas pointed out. Not only would it be more difficult to resolve at a later stage but the wave of refugees which would wash over Europe would create enormous problems, he stressed.

Embassies - tightened security

The Czech Secret Service says there are no immediate security risks for the Czech Republic in connection with the Kosovo crisis. However, police spokeswoman Ivana Moosova said measures had been taken to tighten security around a number of embassies in Prague.

Parliament - hospital

The Lower House of Parliament has endorsed government plans to send a field hospital and transport plane to Macedonia as part of an international peacekeeping force in the region. This would entail sending out a surgical unit and medical staff of around 100 people for a period of 18 months, at an estimated cost of 272 million crowns, the transport plane at 1,5 million. Reportedly the field hospital could be in place and operational within 40 days of its final approval. However in view of recent developments it is not clear when it may be needed.

EP - report

The foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament has offered reassurance that the Czech Republic's economic problems are not so serious as to threaten the country's accession to the EU. In a statement issued Wednesday the committee nevertheless stressed that there was still a great deal of work ahead , such as reforming the judiciary, revising the controversial citizenship law and improving the circumstances of the Romany minority. On the other hand, the Czech government received praise for the way it had tackled the problem of corruption.

Finally, a look at the weather:

we can expect a slight warming on Thursday with day temps climbing to between 13 and 17 degs C. Patches of morning fog should give way to partly cloudy skies and possibly, occasional drizzle in the course of the day. Day temp on Friday and Saturday should remain fairly high -between 14 and 18 degs.