News Thursday, MAY 28th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: May 28, 1998, 0700 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

Good afternoon from Prague, I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.

CZECH-BANKS-CURRENCY-PRIVATISE

Czech Finance Minister Ivan Pilip says the government will soon invite foreign investors to make preliminary bids by the end of June for buying off the state's remaining share in the Ceskoslovenska Obchodni bank.

He spoke as the Czech national currency, the crown, slumped heavily on Wednesday, selling for over 18.70 to one German mark.

The central bank reacted immediately by declaring readiness to intervene. The bank's officials told CTK the decline in the crown's value should probably be ascribed to the unstable situation on Russia's financial market.

But Finance Minister Ivan Pilip says the sudden fall of the crown may have been caused by foreign investors' fears for the future independence of the Czech National Bank in the wake of the Social Democrats's remarks that they will establish tighter control over the bank if they win early elections scheduled in less than one month.

The main-opposition Social Democrats are widely tipped to emerge victorious from the early polls.

CZECH-FINANCE-POLITICS

Czech Premier Josef Tosovsky on Wednesday rejected a call by the lower house of parliament to dismiss Finance Minister Ivan Pilip.

Tosovsky's spokesman said the premier had informed the government he decided not to accept the demand of the chamber of deputies for recalling Pilip. But the spokesman, Petr Studenovsky, did not elaborate.

Last Friday, the lower house approved a resolution, which does not carry constitutional weight, calling on Tosovsky to ask President Havel to sack Pilip.

The move was proposed by the opposition Social Democrats, who have been unsatisfied with Pilip's handling of privatisation, and housing and energy price deregulations.

NONGOVT-PROTEST-DEMAND

Several Czech non-governmental organisations on Wednesday demanded the sacking of the police commander of a crack-down on environmental protesters in Prague earlier this month.

Officials of the Czech Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Documentation Centre said they want criminal proceedings halted against all detainees against whom there exists no evidence of wrongdoing.

Prague police cracked down on protesters on May 16 after they started smashing shop windows and looting goods on display.

The protest, called Global Street Party 2000, was against the growing influence of Western monopolies in the Czech Republic.

STRIKE-RAILWAYS

The Czech Railway Employees Union said on Wednesday it will give formal support to an hour-long warning strike called on June 8 by 10 civil servants' trade unions.

The Railwaymen's union chief Jaromir Dusek said however that he had expected the unions to act more resolutely after the failure of their recent meeting with Premier Tosovsky.

But Dusek indicated that Czech Rail could call a strike of its own because documents at his disposal suggest the government is planning to privatise some railways at variance with the assurances to the contrary, given by Transport Minister Petr Moos late last month.

Dusek's assertions have now been rejected by the management of the Czech Rail company.

CZECH-EU-BISHOPS

Czech Roman Catholic Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said in Brussels on Wednesday that his church solidly backs this country's bid to join the EU, and wants to assist this effort by promoting ethics and solidarity among the Czechs.

Cardinal Vlk said the Church must step in where the state and its legislature cannot effectively support certain ethical principles.

Vlk and his entourage have been visiting Brussels at the invitation of the European Commission.

The Czech Republic and some other east and central European countries are believed to be eligible for EU entry early next century.

AUSTRIA-CZECH-NUCLEAR

The lower house of the Austrian parliament has called on the Czech government to prevent the launching of the controversial nuclear power plant at Temelin, close to Austria's border.

The opposition Green Party MP Gabriela Moser said parliament had committed the Austrian government to starting negotiations with Prague.

She said a combination of eastern and western technologies such as those in Temelin posed a safety risk to Austria, which is comparable with the risks ensuing from Slovakia's Mochovce nuclear plant.

CZECH-GOVT-FLOODS

The Czech government decided on Wednesday how to distribute four billion crown's worth of aid to the regions affected by last year's devastating floods, which left a third of Czech territory inundated last July.

The money -- the National Property Fund's proceeds from privatisation programmes in the early 1990s, was allocated by parliament earlier this month, pending approval by the Senate and the President of the Republic.

CZECH-FOOTBALL

Soccer -- and the Czech Republic and South Korea drew two goals each in a friendly match in Seoul on Wednesday.

The scorers were Jiri Nemec and Vratislav Lokvenc on the Czech side, and Hwang Sun-hong and Choi Yong-soo for Korea.

CZECH-WEATHER

Finally, the weather: We are expecting a hot day in the Czech Republic, marred only by scattered showers and thunderstorms.

Daytime temperatures will be between 24 and 28 degrees Celsius, and around 17 degrees at the altitude of 1000 metres.

An outlook for Friday and Saturday -- a cold front will move eastward across central Europe, bringing more precipitation into the Czech Republic. Nighttime lows from 13 to 19 Celsius, afternoon highs on Friday from 21 to 25 degrees, and on Saturday, be prepared for daytime highs between 22 and 26 Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.