News Thursday, MAY 27th, 1999

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

NATO's reaction to Czech initiative negative

NATO and its member states reacted with disparagement, embarrassment and scepticism to the Czech-Greek peace initiative for Kosovo. Diplomats in Brussels mostly said that it was an interesting contribution to the discussion and that it may be of value in the future. They said, however, that publishing it now could give Belgrade the impression of NATO disunity. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that all political efforts were welcome. He added, however, that all of the allies, including Greece and the Czech Republic, had agreed to carry on with the air strikes, while considering future options. Shea stressed that the use of force was not an alternative to diplomacy but a preliminary condition for diplomacy to be effective. The CTK news agency quoted an unnamed NATO official as saying that the proposal was not in line with NATO policy. The Czech-Greek joint initiative suggested for example that the air strikes be interrupted for several days even before Serbian troops withdraw from Kosovo. Another diplomat was quoted as saying that the timing of the initiative was not suitable in the context of other diplomatic initiatives. He said it might confuse Belgrade as to what was NATO's official stance. Czech ambassador to NATO, Karel Kovanda, said that the initiative had been formally tabled, but it was not discussed at the session of the North Atlantic Council.

Govt against erection of wall in Maticni street

The government is opposed to the idea of erecting a wall in Maticni street in Usti nad Labem, north Bohemia. The barrier was intended to protect family houses from noise coming from apartment houses inhabited by rent defaulters, most of them of Romany origin. Government spokesman Libor Roucek told reporters that the government was opposed to any action which would have the character of racial discrimination or segregation or which could provoke it. If local authorities fail to respect the government's stance, then state authorities will suspend the implementation of the plan and submit the case to the Chamber of Deputies.

Havel: no improvement, stays in hospital

President Havel will have to stay in hospital for several more days as laboratory tests still confirm the presence of infection in his body. Havel's doctor Ilja Kotik said that there had been no improvement in Havel's health in the last 48 hours, which was why doctors postponed the decision to release him from hospital. Havel's schedule for next week has therefore been cancelled. Havel was admitted to hospital a week ago with bronchitis.

Sedivy, Peltram: Czech contribution to KFOR depends on money

The Czech Republic's participation in the international peace force in Kosovo (KFOR), will depend on the amount of money earmarked by the government and parliament, as the Defence Ministry's funds are exhausted. This according to Czech Army chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy.

On Tuesday, the NATO Council approved the deployment of around 50,000 troops in Kosovo. The soldiers will be prepared in Macedonia and the plan envisages their deployment in Kosovo on the grounds of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Czech defence minister Vladimir Vetchy estimates that the Czech Republic could assign one unit for the peace-keeping force and confirmed that it depended on the parliament's willingness to provided extra money from the state budget.

Transport ministry to aid railways

The transport ministry may enforce crisis management on Czech Railways. The ministry refuted the Railway Trade Unions' claim that the ministry planned to take over control of the company. The minister explained that the current management would not be replaced. The situation is to be discussed on Friday at a session of the Railways' board. According to the Czech Railways spokeswoman, the company finds itself in very bad shape due to losses in the passenger transport sector. However, the transport ministry claims that the losses are to a large extent due to the company's uneconomical behaviour, including for example excessive pay-rises.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a bright and sunny day, afternoon highs should range from 24 to 28 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for the end of the week: the skies should be mostly clear, with highest daytime temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.