News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 17th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-news date: February 17th, 1998 written/read by: Ray Furlong

Those are the headlines, I'm Ray Furlong, and now the news in more detail

Skalicky - resignation

In the wake of a serious party financing scandal ODA leader and environment minister Jiri Skalicky has tendered his resignation from prime minister Tosovsky's cabinet. The prime minister is to discuss the matter with President Havel in the course of the day. Skalicky said that since he himself was unable to explain certain irregularities in party financing and his own credibility as ODA leader was under question he could not retain his government post and continue to damage the interests of the entire cabinet.

Czech/Polish talks

The Czech and Polish prime ministers, Josef Tosovsky and Jerzy Buzek, have held their first bilateral meeting in the Polish town of Bielsko- Biala. Speaking after the talks, Tosovsky confirmed that the two countries' good relations had not been interrupted by changes of government on both sides of the border. Talks focused on a number of issues, including entrance to NATO and the European Union, as well as stepping up cross-border cooperation. In connection with this Tosovsky said the two sides would work more closely to coordinate efforts at preventing floods, which ravaged areas on both sides of the Czech- Polish border last summer. After the talks the two premiers travelled to the Czech town of Cesky Tesin, where there is a large Polish population, and visited the house where Buzek was born.

Poll

Czechs expect the current political deadlock, in which no party or group of parties is strong enough to form a stable working majority in Parliament, to continue - according to opinion poll findings released on Monday. The poll showed that 54 percent expected the stalemate in Parliament to continue after early elections scheduled for June which are aimed at breaking the deadlock. This would confirm the results of recent opinion polls showing that although the Social Democrats would win the election, they would not be strong enough to form a majority government even if the small centrist Christian Democrats joined them. Meanwhile, senior Christian Democrat politicians have been casting doubt on whether such a post-election alliance with the Social Democrats would be possible anyway.

Havel - possible operation

President Havel could undergo a minor operation in the middle of this week, his chief doctor Miroslav Cerbak announced. Cerbak said the medical team looking after the President were satisfied with the progress of his health, and that there was no reason to delay the operation - in which they intend to remove a small fistula which appeared after a tracheomoty in 1996. After the operation, which is described as low-risk, Havel will spend a further two to three days in hospital, Cerbak said, adding that the medical team will meet again on Thursday. Havel is said to be in good spirits, and spending his time studying various documents.

CSSD

The British Labour Party made a donation to the campaign of the Czech Social Democrats during the last election, according to a report by the CTK news agency. The news came after Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman named his party's three secret sponsors as foundations based in Britain, Sweden and Denmark. CTK's correspondent in London reported that the Westminster Foundation had not directly financed Zeman's party, but that the Labour Party had used its share of money disposed of by the Foundation to support the Social Democrats' election campaign in 1996.

Sport - after a cruel defeat at the hands of the Russians, the Czech team face a tough encounter with the United States in the ice hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics in Nagano. Nevertheless, Czech star Jaromir Jagr, who plays in the NHL, told reporters he was still full of hope for the Czech team's chances.

And finally the weather - no significant change there , Wednesday should be overcast with occasional showers and day temps between 2 and 5 degs C. Nighttime lows minus 2 to minus 6 degs C.