News Tuesday, APRIL 04th, 2000

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

CZECH-MINERS-PROTEST

All employees of a North Bohemian mine have joined in an unlimited occupation strike in their pit after negotiations to save the operation failed overnight.

President Havel refused on Monday evening to meet representatives of the striking coal-miners but said he would closely follow the situation of those who continue to occupy a mineshaft at the Kohinoor coal mine in protest at possible closure. The miners are demanding an agreement that would guarantee the future of the mine, and the resignation of the current board of directors.

Negotiations with a prospective buyer of the mine have been counterproductive and the government has said it does not wish to be directly involved in the talks.

CZECH-HAVEL-PARTIES

The main opposition Civic Democratic Party has dismissed President Havel's warning that mafia- style capitalism is on the rise in his country.

Civic Democrat leader Vaclav Klaus said on Monday it was rather unfortunate from the head of state to slander his country in this way after a decade of building a democratic system. Mr. Klaus described Havel's remarks as being offensive to hundreds of thousands or even millions of inhabitants.

Havel said in an interview to Czech Radio last week that mafia-style capitalism was flourishing in his country because of unclear privatisation rules and insider dealing.

CZECH-EXTREMIST-PARTIES

The far-right Czech civic association, the Patriotic Front, says it plans to form a party. But it cites irreconcilable ideological differences with another extreme-right entity, the National Alliance, which the outgoing Interior Minister ordered dissolved last week.

The Patriotic Front said on Monday it had entered into negotiations with another five groups but he refused to elaborate.

The National Alliance was disbanded because of its repeated violations of the status of civic association. Both organisations enjoyed their five minutes of glory last autumn, when one of them said the Holocaust and Nazi gas chambers were a fake.

HAVEL-CHECHNYA-PETITION

Almost 9,000 Czechs have signed a petition in defence of unarmed civilians in Chechnya that was delivered to Czech President Vaclav Havel at the weekend.

President Havel's spokesman said on Monday that Mr. Havel, who has repeatedly criticised human rights violations in the Caucasus region, had urged Russia's new president Vladimir Putin to end the Chechen conflict as soon as possible.

Our parliamentary correspondent says most of the Czech members of the European Parliament are likely to vote in favour of suspending Russia's membership in this organisation because of Moscow's poor human rights record.

However, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has dismissed Senator Michael Zantovsky's appeal for the Czech Republic to start proceedings at the International Court in Strasbourg over the repeated human rights violations by Russian troops deployed in Chechnya.

CZECH-NATO-MISSILES

The Czech Armed Forces Chief of Staff Jiri Sedivy says he does not expect his country -- as a member of NATO -- to complicate debates on the U.S. bid to deploy new anti-missile systems in Europe.

But Sedivy said on Monday during his meeting with NATO's Allied Chief of Staff in Europe Dieter Stoeckmann that no Allied nuclear weapons would be sited on Czech territory.

The United States maintains that its new National Missile Defence system is vital for protecting North America and Europe against potential attacks from so-called "uncontrollable countries", such as Iraq and North Korea. But our defence correspondent says many European countries have second thoughts about this project, citing fears of breaking up with Russia.

The two chiefs-of-staff also discussed the role of the Czech reconnaissance unit deployed in the former Yugoslavia. Mr. Sedivy said the Czechs will stay deployed at least until the end of the year.

CZECH-MINISTER-RESHUFFLE

Czech President Vaclav Havel's office has announced the country's new interior minister will be appointed on Tuesday.

He is Stanislav Gross, a 30-year-old deputy chairman of the ruling Social Democrats. Mr. Gross will replace Vaclav Grulich, who resigned on Friday.

Prime Minister Milos Zeman has also said he will name Jaromir Schling to replace Transport Minister Antonin Peltram, and Social Democrat Vice Chairman Petr Lachnit will be a new regional development minister as part of a broad cabinet reshuffle.

In another development, the Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, announced on Monday that his first deputy premier, Vladimir Spidla, would be asked to coordinate the activities of the national security information service, the BIS.

CZECH-TRACTORS-REVITALISE

The majority owner of the problem-struck Zetor tractor plant in Brno says that even with the help of the Revitalisation Agency, production will not resume earlier than in two months' time.

Motokov International's general manager Rene Kraus said on Monday that if Zetor kicked off to a new start, it could produce up to 6,000 tractors by the end of the year.

Zetor tractors are in operation throughout the world but their manufacturer is facing enormous funding problems and has been unable to pay regular wages to its employees for many months now.

CZECH-AUTO-PRIVATISE

The Czech government has given the go-ahead to formal negotiations aiming at selling the state's 30-percent stake in the Skoda Auto carmaker, which is 70-percent owned by Germany's Volkswagen Group.

Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said on Monday this was not a decision to privatise Skoda Auto but rather a move to untie the ministry and Consolidation Bank's hands for further talks with Volkswagen.

CZECH-WEATHER

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

A low pressure area will develop over the Czech Republic during the day and will progress eastwards. After a cloudy night with some scattered showers, Tuesday will follow the same path and we could even have some thunderstorms. Daytime highs between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius, falling to between one and five degrees in the night.

Wednesday will be generally overcast day, again with scattered rains and thunderstorms and daytime temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees in Bohemia, and between 12 and 16 in Moravia.

Early morning lows on Thursday around freezing point, daytime highs a chilly four to eight Celsius.

I am Libor Kubik and that’s the news.