News Tuesday, APRIL 18th, 2000

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

Kohinoor mine to be sold to SHD-Peel

The management of the Kohinoor coal mine and representatives of SHD-Peel have signed a letter of intent on a sales contract. The agreement was signed and verified by a notary in the early hours of Tuesday morning. At the insistence of Kohinoor's management the agreement is linked to the condition that the occupation strike would be called off within 24 hours of its signing and would not be renewed in the course of further negotiations. Should this be violated the document becomes invalid. The 47 miners who have spent 18 days underground are expected to break off the occupation strike shortly.

Czech Republic receives praise from the EU

Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could be the first nations to join the EU as early as in 2003, the EU's commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen said on Monday. The Union's enlargement chief said he backed the ambitious strategy of many applicant countries to join the block by that date and said the EU would welcome if all four Visegrad member states could become EU members at the same time. Slovakia, which had not initially been perceived as a possible frontrunner had an impressive national programme for reform , Verheugen said. Meanwhile, here in Prague visiting Brussels' envoy Michael Leigh said the Czech Republic had made significant progress in meeting EU admission criteria. "The country is back on track" Leigh said predicting that the next EU progress report would reflect that achievement.

Cubans to demonstrate outside Czech embassy

Cuba's leadership has called for a march by 100,000 demonstrators on the Czech embassy in Havana to protest Prague's sponsorship of a move to censure Cuba at a UN human rights forum. A government statement said Tuesday's protest was a way of publicly denouncing the Czech Republic's "miserable complicity" with the United States. The Reuters news agency notes that the protest march appears to be a pre-emptive strike by Havana to cast the upcoming vote in the UN as another act of US aggression.

Intel wants to invest in Czech Republic

The American hardware company Intel is interested in investing in the Czech Republic. According to foreign ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil the possibility was discussed at a meeting between Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan and leading Intel representatives in California last week. Intel is considering several central European states but its interest in this country is very strong, Pospisil said. A group of Intel representatives will be visiting the Czech Republic in the near future to asses the possibilities. Intel is planning to invest 6 billion dollars in new production lines this year.

Law preventing export of nuclear components to Iran now valid

President Havel has signed a law preventing the export of nuclear power components to Iran. The legislation bans the firm ZVVZ Milevsko, and any other Czech manufacturer of nuclear power components, from making deliveries, providing services or information to assist nuclear power projects in Iran. There is a twenty million crown fine on the law's violation.

Social Democrat MP says drugs law too strict

Social Democrat member of Parliament Radim Turek is drafting an amendment to the drugs-law which would be more tolerant of light drugs. He told journalists he was acting in response to growing pressure from the public, drug-experts and on the grounds of his own conviction that the tough legislation approved nearly a year and a half ago had been a mistake. Turek pointed out that the law should be more lenient of the use of marihuana, which he said was less dangerous than alcohol. He said that since the approval of the present law just over a year ago, there had been 600 cases of perfectly respectable citizens getting caught up in criminal proceedings because of having a small amount of marihuana on their person.

Defence Minister looks over fighter jets

On a visit to Sweden, Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy on Monday inspected an air force base which is home to Jas-39 Grippen fighter jets. Speaking to newsmen later the minister rejected the view that the visit was linked to a future tender to supply jets to the Czech air force and that he was showing his preference for the British-Swedish consortium British Aerospace/SAAB. We are merely mapping the ground to see what is available, Vetchy noted , pointing out that Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan had met with two other fighter jet manufacturers in the United States only last week. The Defense Minister said the main purpose of his visit was to review the present state of bilateral cooperation and sign an agreement on protection of classified information.

Klaus makes waves, questions justice system

Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus caused a stir on Monday when he said he hoped that the upcoming court case involving the party's former executive deputy chairman Libor Novak, charged with tax-evasion, would not be politically influenced. " I want to believe that the verdict will be objective and not the result of political pressure or a need to justify the government's aborted Clean Hands Operation or the President's statements about mafia- capitalism in the Czech Republic, Klaus said in a statement for the CTK newsagency. Justice Minister Otakar Motejl, who is not affiliated to any party, was outraged by the insinuation, describing Vaclav Klaus' statement as " most unfortunate and inappropriate".

Communists meet and tell

Communist party chairman Miroslav Grebenicek has revealed that his two recent meetings with the leader of the Social Democrats, Prime Minister Milos Zeman had focused on internal developments within the two parties. There is no doubt that the Social Democrats have been watching us with increased interest, Grebenicek said at a press briefing in Brno on Monday. He noted though that there could be no close cooperation until the Social Democrats returned to their policy programme. " We understand that under the present circumstances, which the President aptly described as "mafia capitalism" it will not be easy – but if they see any solutions we are ready to cooperate" the leader of the Communist Party noted. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats' press spokesman said he was not informed of any meetings with the communists and suggested that if any had taken place it must have been on Parliament ground.

Hranice says: hurry Philips along

The mayor of the Moravian town of Hranice, where Philips intends to build its second largest television factory in the world, has called on Czech administrators not to slow down negotiations with excessive red tape. The arrival of Philips is seen as a blessing by the locals, every seventh of whom is out of a job. The town mayor Rudolf Novak said people could not wait for the opportunities which now presented themselves in terms of growth and construction and he slammed critics who warned Philips would pollute the environment. " If we are not worried why are they" he said, pointing out that Philips respected strict EU norms and that the water let out of its plant would be cleaner than the water in the town's main river Becva is now.

Real rodeo in Prague

Czechs who love a real American rodeo and who don't plan a trip to the States this summer will finally have the chance to see it on home ground. Rodeo USA - that is 80 cowboys, 30 horses and 12 bulls –will be putting on a show in Pilsen on June 24th and 25th. And then on July 4th, American Independence Day, enthusiasts will be able to see them in Prague. Tickets cost 290 crowns for adults, 150 for children. I don't know who else is going but the organizers allegedly plan to invite President Havel.

Finally a look at the weather :

no significant change there. The balmy spring weather we've enjoyed these past two days should continue. Tuesday will bring clear to partly cloudy skies with temp between 16 and 20 degs C –in Moravia, that's the eastern part of the country between 19 and 23 degs. There's a possibility of afternoon showers or even thunderstorms. Wednesday's temps have been forecast at between 18 and 23 degs, Thursdays at between 20 and 24 degs C.