News Thursday, SEPTEMBER 24th, 1998

Radio Prague E-news date: September 24th, 1998 written/read by: Daniela Lazarova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Czech government saves the day

The Czech government has agreed to provide a two billion crown guarantee needed to reconstruct the communist-built Congress Centre which is to host a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in the year 2,000. Authorities for the city of Prague , which owns the Congress Centre had said plans to host the meeting in Prague would have to be called off if the government refused to provide the necessary funds for refurbishment. Prime minister Zeman told newsmen later it had not been an easy decision , in the light of calls for tight spending, but that his Cabinet would honour the commitment made by the previous government.

Kavan in New York

Addressing a session of the UN General Assembly in New York, Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan emphasized the crucial role of the United Nations in the present day world and added his voice to calls for reform. He expressed the view that the United Nations was still the most suitable forum for debating and resolving international disputes and said the Czech Republic would continue to actively support UN peace missions world-wide. In his address Kavan placed great emphasis on human rights issues.

President Klestil in Prague

Austrian President Thomas Klestil on Wednesday paid a lightening visit to the Czech Republic, the last stop on his European tour of EU candidates. Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, has been especially active in negotiating early expansion . President Klestil assured Czechs that unresolved bilateral issues such as the post-war expulsion of Sudeten Germans or the Temelin nuclear power plant under construction close to the Austrian border would not be allowed to stand in the way of the Czech Republic's admission to the European Union. However he said dialogue should continue to try and resolve both issues.

Fear of Russian mafia

There are fears that the Russian crisis may fuel mafia operations in the Czech Republic. Addressing a Parliamentary committee, Deputy foreign minister Jan Winkler, argued that certain precautions needed to be taken to prevent this happening. With the collapse or loss of credit of Russian financial institutions the mafia will seek new territory for its illegal operations , new banks for money laundering, Winkler said, pointing out that the Czech Republic was a likely target. Coincidentally, the Czech government is in the process of launching operation Clean Hands in a battle against corruption.

Prague Castle on a tight budget

The reconstruction of Prague Castle may be threatened by a lack of funds, after the government slashed Prague Castle expenditures in next years budget. The head of the President's Office, Ivan Medek, told the ctk newsagency that with a twenty-five million crowns smaller budget in 1999, some of the planned reconstruction work would have to be put off indefinitely. Apart from the fact that this would damage the country's cultural legacy, Medek pointed out that the Prague Castle grounds were the number one tourist attraction in the Czech capital.

Stop abuse of animals

The Czech Republic has ratified three European covenants on the protection of animals. According to Jiri Mucha, the Czech representative at the Council of Europe, these pertain to conditions in breeding farms, transport of livestock, and various forms of animal abuse. The covenants are due to come into effect on March 24th, 1999.

Czech Republic - low-income state

The latest OECD statistics place the Czech Republic in a group of lower-income states such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Slovinia. The statistics are based on research pertaining to purchasing power in 32 countries, which have subsequently been classified into five groups. The top income group includes the US, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland. Second in line are Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Holland. Group three include France,Italy, Britain, Finland, Sweden and Israel. The Czech Republic is in group four, with the above mentioned states. Bottom of the ladder are Mexico, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Slovakia and Russia.

Finally, a quick look at the weather:

Although September 23rd brought the first day of autumn we are finally enjoying that long-awaited Indian summer. According to the forecast it will hold until the end of the week at least. Thursday's afternoon highs between 17 and 21 degs C. Day temps on Friday and Saturday are expected to reach 24 degs C. Skies will be partly cloudy with intervals of sunshine.