News Thursday, NOVEMBER 16th, 2000

By: Libor Kubik

Popular Social Democrat calls for party chief's resignation

The popular chairwoman of the Social Democrat members of parliament, Petra Buzkova, has called on Prime Minister Milos Zeman to step down as party leader. She said Mr Zeman should resign for the good of the ruling party.

Ms Buzkova's statement came in the wake of Zeman's late-night meeting with Communist Party chief Miroslav Grebenicek, where the two leaders reportedly discussed forming coalitions in the newly elected regional parliaments. She described these overtures as scandalous.

Mr Zeman has denied claims of a formal coalition agreement. He told reporters he had offered only limited support to the Communists in the wake of Sunday's Senate and regional elections. He also denied the Communist Party's claim that the Social Democrats would endorse all Communist candidates who advanced to next Sunday's runoff elections.

EU, Czechs cancel Thursday round of entry talks

Negotiations on Czech membership of the European Union set for today have been postponed because of the country's dispute with Austria over the Czech Temelin nuclear power station.

Diplomats in Brussels said Austria and its EU partners disagreed on how to approach the issue in EU membership talks covering the energy sector, meaning the EU had no common position to present to Prague.

Fiercely anti-nuclear Austria strongly opposes the Temelin station and the issue has grown into the Czech Republic's most serious diplomatic dispute since the end of Communism in the region 11 years ago.

CEFTA open to new members

Seven states allied in the Central European Free Trade Agreement or CEFTA have declared that the organisation remains open to new members ready to meet its criteria.

At a meeting in Warsaw, top government officials from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia also pledged to exchange information on their progress in membership negotiations with the EU.

All CEFTA member states have opened membership talks with the Union. The Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary are expected to be among the first to gain entry, possibly before the year 2005.

Originally founded eight years ago by Poland, Hungary and the then Czechoslovakia to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of communism, CEFTA aims to promote free trade and political stability in Central Europe.

Athletics: Zatopek in critical condition

The four-time Olympic gold medallist Emil Zatopek remains in a critical condition in hospital, although some of the side-effects of a stroke suffered late last month have eased slightly.

Doctors at the Prague Military Hospital say that despite the slight improvement, the 78-year-old Czech Olympic hero remains in the intensive care wing where he has been since the end of October.

Zatopek's wife Dana, also an Olympic gold medallist, says the former long-distance runner is still unconscious.

Emil Zatopek's finest achievements came at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, where he won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres plus the marathon in the space of eight days, each in Olympic record time.

His marathon victory was particularly noteworthy. On his debut, he demoralised his rivals by casually inquiring if the pace was fast enough before going on to win by 700 metres.

Czech weather report

On Thursday, a foggy morning with some scattered showers and temperatures between three and minus one degrees Celsius will usher in a cloudy day with afternoon highs between six and 10 degrees.

Friday's morning lows will be zero to three above in Bohemia, and between three and six degrees above freezing in Moravia and Silesia. Daytime highs in Bohemia between four and eight Celsius, and in the eastern parts of the Czech Republic, between eight and 11 degrees. We expect frequent showers during the day.

Saturday will be a cloudy day with scattered showers and some snowfalls in the mountains. Early morning lows between freezing and plus four Celsius, daytime highs from four to eight degrees above zero.