News Tuesday, APRIL 07th, 1998

Radio Prague E-News, April 6, 1998, Vladimir Tax

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.

Czech officials refute espionage allegations

Czech defence minister Michal Lobkowicz and foreign minister Jaroslav Sedivy on Monday denied allegations that Czech intelligence services were acting against NATO member states. They were reacting to information published in the latest issue of the German weekly Der Spiegel. The newspaper, quoting sources in NATO headquarters, wrote that Czech, Polish and Hungarian intelligence services kept contacts with their Russian colleagues and that they made attempts to place agents at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Polish and Hungarian representatives have also called this allegation groundless.

Havel turns down a drug bill

President Havel on Monday returned a law on drug possession to parliament for re-working. The legislation would have made possession of any amount of drugs illegal.

He argued that the law would introduce punishment for drug users, who are in fact ill people and victims, rather than suppress drug- traffickers.

Presidential spokesman Ladislav Spacek said president Havel had come to the conclusion that the danger which would accompany its application could be greater than the advantages it was supposed to bring. According to the president, the law would also disturb the system of basic human rights and freedoms.

The drug bill proposed that possession of a small amount of drugs would be a petty offence punishable by a fine, possession of "more than a small quantity" of drugs would be a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and possession of a large amount by up to five years. How much a small amount, more than a small amount and a large amount are would be decided by a court.

NATO membership to be approved next week

The Chamber of Deputies is to vote on Czech NATO membership next week. 78 MPs have asked lower house speaker Milos Zeman to call a session for April the 14th which would deal with the issue. Zeman has already confirmed that he would do so.

The Chamber of Deputies is expected to approve the Czech Republic's accession to NATO because of its two hundred members, only 22 Communists and 18 Republicans are against it.

Support for NATO rising

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Sofres- Factum agency, 54 percent of Czechs support their country's membership in NATO. This is a ten-percent increase since last year.

About a third of those asked would opt for a referendum on the issue while just above fifty percent would like parliament to decide.

Czech NATO membership enjoys the most support from voters for right-wing parties, and the least from those who favor the Republicans and Communists.

Freedom union about SocDem

The Freedom Union does not consider the Social Democrats an enemy but an ideological opponent. Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said this on Monday. He was reacting to Social Democrat chairman Milos Zeman's statement that the Freedom Union was his party's enemy number one. Zeman also said that it was absolutely impossible for these two parties to form a coalition, and accused Freedom Union members of trying to conceal crimes they had committed in the past as members of the Civic Democratic Party.

Ruml said this was the old confrontational political style which had already been rejected by the public, and an indication of how the Social Democrats would conduct their election campaign.

Freedom Union holds press conference on Internet

The Freedom Union on Monday became the first Czech political party to hold a live press conference on the Internet.

Minister Vladimir Mlynar, one of the Union's election leaders, said that the party considers the Internet to be natural means of communication, which also played an important role during the establishment of the Freedom Union.

Ondrej Turek from the Freedom Union's press department said that similar on-line discussions will be repeated.

Dance show

And an announcement for dance lovers: On Friday, the 10th of April, Prague's Zofin palace will host a dance show called Bohemia Zofin Cup 98, featuring the best professional couples from all over the world.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a partially cloudy day with scattered showers in the afternoon. Highest daytime temperatures should range from 12 to 16 degrees Celsius. And a brief outlook for Wednesday and Thursday: it should be much the same as on Tuesday, cloudy or partially cloudy with showers, with temperatures between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.