News Thursday, MARCH 30th, 2000

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.

CZECH-HAVEL-SECURITY-RADIO

President Vaclav Havel maintains his public announcement last week that he has ordered the national security agency BIS to investigate an official for allegedly destabilising key elements of the Czech police was a legitimate step for him to do under the circumstances.

On Wednesday evening, Havel said in a live interview to Czech Radio that he indeed had ordered the civilian intelligence agency to carry out such an investigation.

According to investigative press reports, the man under suspicion is Josef Doucha, a lawyer and former police officer. The Mlada Fronta Dnes daily has suggested that Havel suspects him of contacts with the Russian Mafia and of attempts to paralyse police efforts to fight organised crime.

CZECH-JEWISH-GOVERNMENT

The Czech insurance company, Ceska Pojistovna, has welcomed the government's resolve to embrace a compromise solution of the crisis enveloping a former Jewish burial ground in central Prague.

The cabinet agreed on Wednesday to a compromise plan which allows for the construction of the company's new office building over the site of a medieval Jewish cemetery while preserving the centuries-old remains.

Plans by Ceska Pojistovna to build its new headquarters over the thirteenth-century burial site had sparked an outcry from Jewish groups around the world.

In a deal struck with the Prague Jewish Community and the insurer, the government agreed to contribute to a 60-million-crown plan to alter the construction.

Rabbi Marc Schneider, leader of the North American Board of Rabbis which had asked the Czech government to find a compromise acceptable to Jews around the world, praised the decision.

CZECH-YUGOSLAVIA-CRITIC

United Nations' special human rights envoy to the former Yugoslavia, former Czechoslovak Foreign Minister Jiri Dienstbier, continued to criticise last year's Allied bombing campaign against Belgrade.

On Wednesday, he told the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva that the air attacks last spring, apart from wrecking the Serbian, Montenegrin and Kosovo economies, had also wreaked havoc on the whole Balkans.

Dienstbier also slashed at the UN civil administration and KFOR who he said had failed to ensure public safety and conditions for the development of democratic institutions in a multiethnic society.

The Czech diplomat said he favours the lifting of international embargoes against Yugoslavia. He described the sanctions as a violation of human rights because they have proved ineffective towards Milosevic while at the same time destroying ordinary human lives.

CZECH-STABILITY-DONORS

A conference of donor countries for the South East European Stability Pact gets underway in Brussels. The Czech Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that this country would offer itself as the host and organiser of seminars on democratisation and the building of a civic society in the Balkans.

The ministry said these international seminars should address such issues as ethnic minorities, equality of both sexes in society, and a reform of the mass communication media.

In the economic sphere, Prague will put forward a plan for upgrading the region's power industry -- the field in which the Czechs have scored important successes in the Balkans.

CZECH-MINISTER-COMMUNIST

The newly appointed Social Democrat minister without portfolio, 27-year-old Karel Brezina, says he does not mind the communist past of his new aide Jiri Frkal and that he plans further personnel changes in his office early next week.

Political analysts here in Prague have noted, however, that Frkal is not the only ex-communist to establish a presence in government structures. Prime Minister Milos Zeman's top aide, Miroslav Slouf, is a case in point.

Justice Minister Otakar Motejl, the only non-party member of the all-Social Democrat cabinet, on Wednesday expressed disagreement with Brezina's choice but described the appointment as the youthful minister's own affair.

CZECH-TOWN-PHILIPS

In a major foreign investment for the Czech Republic, the Dutch electronics giant Philips has reached agreement with the Prague government to build a new colour TV picture tube plant in this country.

It has been announced that Philips is planning to invest 200 million euros or just under 200 million dollars in the factory to be located at Hranice na Morave in the eastern part of the Czech Republic.

Production would start within one year's time and the plant is expected to employ around 1,000 people. Philips officially said it would be the first plant to build large-size colour TV picture tubes in Central Europe.

CZECH-OPEC-PRICES

Drivers here in the Czech Republic were anxious on Wednesday to learn if petrol prices will go down in the wake of OPEC's decision to boost crude oil production.

Some petrol station operators believe the prices should at least stabilise but our correspondent says much will depend on the pricing policy of the OPEC cartel. Another crucial factors is the Czech crown to U.S. dollar exchange rate and the level of preparedness of the Ceska Rafinerska fuel provider to buy crude oil for the new prices.

But on the whole, fuel distributors and refinery officials generally welcome the OPEC's decision.

CZECH-CATHOLIC-POPE

One hundred and forty buses leave the Czech Republic later in the day, carrying Catholic pilgrims from all dioceses and heading for a weekend pilgrimage to the vatican.

In the jubilee year 2000, about 5,000 Czech Catholics will set on a pilgrimage to find spiritual peace and reconciliation with God.

CZECH-GERMAN-NUCLEAR

The international environmental organisation Greenpeace on Wednesday staged a protest in Munich against Germany's plans to import cheap electricity from the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant nearing completion in South Bohemia close to the Czech-Austrian border.

However, the Bayernwerk utility company, which intends to buy electricity from Temelin, says said an electric power exchange scheme with the Czech Republic has been underway for decades now.

CZECH-WEATHER

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

Because of a low-pressure area over Central Europe, Thursday will be another rather wet day here in the Czech Republic, with scattered snow showers at higher elevations. Daytime highs between six and 10 degrees Celsius, dropping to just slightly above zero in the night.

On Friday and Saturday, the skies will be cloudy and scattered rain showers highly probable across the Czech territory. Daytime highs between six and 10 Celsius on both days, early morning lows between one and five degrees above zero.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the news.