News Thursday, MARCH 26th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news Date: 26.3.1998 Written/read by: David Vaughan

Hello and a warm welcome to Radio Prague. I'm David Vaughan. First the headlines.

And now the news in more detail.

Libya Hotel Row

The Malta based company Corinthia Group, which owns a majority stake in a number of prominent Czech hotels, has denied claims that it is controlled by the Libyan government. As a result of the claims the United States has called on its citizens to boycott the company's hotels, as part of its broad sanctions against Libya. US citizens defying the ban could face criminal charges. The Corinthia Group is to hold a press conference today to defend its case. Among American citizens who have already cancelled their stay at hotels owned by the company are the blues musician B.B. King, who is shortly to give a concert in Prague, and US embassy officials have also cancelled a planned meeting with the Czech trade and industry minister at Prague's Hotel Forum.

Hospital Closure Freeze

The lower house of the Czech parliament has called on the government to freeze all planned hospital closures. It has also recommended that the government cancel all the closures already approved. Deputies justified their call by arguing that the current caretaker government only has a very limited mandate, and should not be taking such key decisions. Well over half the deputies present voted for the recommendation, with most of the votes coming from the political left. The Health Minister, Zuzana Roithova, reacted angrily, saying that the vote reflected the incompetence of some deputies, adding that the recommendation was illegal.

Social Democrat Row

The former deputy leader of the Czech Social Democrats, Karel Machovec, has acknowledged making serious mistakes in connection with the so-called Bamberg sponsorship affair that is currently besetting the party. He acknowledged giving the false impression in a television interview that he had signed a document that would have opened the way to an illegal party loan in return for influence in key posts in a future Social Democrat government. He now insists that no such document was signed, and that he did nothing more than to sign a hand-written text, confirming that a meeting had taken place with the potential sponsors.

Bosnian Mines

The Canadian ambassador to NATO, David Wright, has taken advantage of a visit to Prague to call for an initiative to remove landmines from the part of Bosnia where Czech and Canadian forces are working together in the SFOR mission. The Czech deputy foreign minister, Otto Pick warmly welcomed the suggestion and said that the Czech Republic would do all it could to support the initiative. The two men also discussed NATO expansion, and Mr Pick expressed his thanks to Canada for being the first country to ratify expansion. They both agreed that the decision by the United States Congress to put off ratification is not a problem, and has no bearing on the country's willingness to admit the Czech Republic.

Novak to Be Freed?

The head of Prague police's criminal investigation department, Pavel Hajek, has recommended that the former deputy chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, Libor Novak, be released from custody. Mr Novak has been charged with tax evasion while he was running the party's finances, and rumours of financial irregularities were what led to the fall of party leader Vaclav Klaus's government at the end of last year. Mr Hajek said that Mr Novak had been taken into custody to prevent him from influencing the testimony of other witnesses, but he stressed that Mr Novak's release will not mean that charges will be dropped.

Czech Painting Sale

A number of well-known works of Czech Cubist painting from the early part of this century have come under the hammer at the London auction house, Sotheby's. The works, including paintings by such Czech masters as Emil Filla and Frantisek Kupka, fetched nearly three hundred thousand pounds, a hundred thousand pounds more than had been expected. The sale followed a recent high-profile auction of paintings from the collection of Milan Heidenreich, and last year works by Czech Cubist artists fetched a record five hundred thousand pounds at Sotheby's sales, as international interest in Czech Cubism continues to grow.

Weather

And finally a quick look at the weather...

It's another bright day with some sunshine and temperatures between four and eight degrees celsius. On Friday and Saturday we can expect showers but it will be much warmer, with temperatures as high as 16 degrees.

And that's the end of the news.