News Tuesday, DECEMBER 15th, 1998

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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.

GDP for Q3 - Statistical Office

The Gross Domestic Product in the third quarter of this year dropped by 2.9 percent year-on-year, the Czech Statistical Office announced today. Over the first three quarters of the year, the GDP dropped by 2.1 percent. The statistical data reveal that the GDP as a key macroeconomic indicator is still below the level of the year 1990.

Personnel changes in Sporitelna's management imminent

The government wants to call an Extraordinary General Meeting of Ceska Sporitelna savings bank by Christmas and make changes in its management. Finance minister Ivo Svoboda told TV Prima the meeting would be called immediately after the government approves a revitalisation plan for the bank. On Monday, the Czech government's task force, set up to deal with the situation at Ceska Sporitelna suggested that the state take over non-performing loans in Czech companies worth about 10 billion crowns from Sporitelna's portfolio. The state stakes will then be sold to strategic investors. The cabinet is to decide on the plan on Wednesday.

Havel ill

President Havel is feeling better and should be back at work on Wednesday, his doctor Ilja Kotik told reporters. Havel has had to cancel his agenda for several days due to a slight viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. President Havel has been suffering from bouts respiratory problems for several years and two years ago, he underwent a surgery which removed a malignant tumour from his right lung.

Yet another one

US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton arrives in Prague today for a two-day official visit. He is to meet with top Czech representatives to discuss the Czech Republic's readiness to join NATO, cooperation between the armies of the two countries, defence policy and a concept of building the military. Recently, a delegation from the House of Representatives' National Security Committee also visited Prague because of the Czech Republic's readiness to join the Alliance.

Police arrest former arms company chairman - TV Nova

Czech police have arrested former board chairman of the Sellier & Bellot company Jiri Dvorak on fraud charges, TV Nova reported, adding that Dvorak faces several years in prison if convicted. Nova said that employees at Sellier & Bellot, a sport and hunting arms ammunition manufacturer, had long warned of so-called "tunnelling" - an illegal transfer of a company's assets into another company. According to several sources as well as an international audit, the company recorded losses of almost 35 million crowns in 1997, at a time when Dvorak was chairman of the board.

Spanish businessmen interested in CR

A delegation of businessmen who are accompanying Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar on his visit to the Czech Republic, have expressed their interest in investing in the Czech Republic. President of the Spanish Industrial Confederation OECE Santiago Zaldumbide, said that Spanish investors were interested especially in the privatisation of the banking and energy sectors. He added that investment in these areas could subsequently attract interest in other spheres of industry. Until now, Spanish investment in the Czech Republic has been minimal.

CR and Austria jointly against illegal migrants

Czech and Austrian interior ministers Vaclav Grulich and Karl Schloegel have signed an agreement on cooperation in emergency and crisis situations. But the main point of their meeting was the security of the two countries' border against illegal migrants. Minister Grulich said the Czech Republic could learn from Austrian experience. He added that the migration wave from the East to Western Europe was expected to last for several years and required some special measures.

Miners contented

Miners employed by OKD mining company in the town of Ostrava have called off a strike alert after the company chief executive promised to pay them extra bonuses before Christmas. The miners' trade unions called the strike alert at the beginning of December in reaction to the company management saying it would not pay them any extra money before the end of this year.

Weather forecast

And finally a quick look at the weather. We are expecting another relatively warm but cloudy and rainy day. The highest daytime temperatures should range from 5 to 9 degrees Celsius. Wednesday and Thursday should be much the same, cloudy with occasional showers, and temperatures between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.