News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 23rd, 1999

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.

Israel supports Czech efforts for compensation of Nazi victims

Israel will support the Czech Republic in its efforts to win compensations for wartime forced labourers and victims of the Holocaust. Czech Deputy Premier Pavel Rychetsky, who is visiting Jerusalem, has been assured by Israeli officials that Israel would also support Czech talks with Germany concerning restitution of Jewish property confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. On Moday, Rychetsky met with Israeli President Ezer Weizman and top representatives of Israeli justice. The World Jewish Restitution Organisation vice-president Nafati Lavie offered Rychetsky concrete help in discovering assets confiscated from Jews during the war. The Czech government set up a commission for this task last November.

Zeman to meet Vlk

Premier Zeman is to meet with Cardinal Miroslav Vlk later today to discuss the strained relations between the church and the state. The Minister of Culture Pavel Dostal is also expected to be present at the meeting. The state has come at odds with churches in the Czech Republic because of the composition of the governmental commission which is supposed to deal with the church-state relations. The churches refused to participate in the commission because the government nominated a communist representative into it. The churches feel offended because the Communist regime persecuted churches and tried to eradicate Christianity from the country.

NATO tests Czech airforce readiness

NATO officials have begun a final testing of the Czech air defence's readiness to be incorporated into NATO air-force. Czech Air Force spokesman Petr Fajl told CTK that the force will become part of NATO's air-defence systems on the day when the Czech Republic enters NATO. An eleven-member team from the NATO air force command is monitoring the performance of Czech commanders and MiG-21 fighter jets. Fajl explained that air situations are simulated to which fighters from three different airfields must react.

Soudek removed by Czech banks, remains a shareholder

Former chief executive officer of the industrial giant Skoda Plzen remains a strong player in the company. He told Czech public TV that he owns a 28-percent stake in Skoda. He also said that the main players behind his removal were not foreign creditors of the company but two Czech banks and the National Property Fund which together have a majority in the supervisory board. The supervisory board of the company removed Soudek from his position as chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer on Monday and replaced him with his deputy, Jiri Hlavica.

Kinnock in the corridor

EU commissioner for transport Neil Kinnock continues his visit to the Czech Republic. With transport minister Antonin Peltram, he is visiting the first railway corridor in Moravia which the EU is helping to finance. On Monday, Kinnock praised the modernization and transformation of the Czech railways. He said the EU was prepared to provide consultations as well as investment support.

Police used intelligence service information against skins

For the weekend raid on neo-nazi skinheads in the town of Pilsen, Czech police used also information collected by the intelligence service BIS. According to BIS spokesman Jan Subert, the civilian intelligence service has been monitoring skinhead movements for several years and disclosed contacts between the Czech skinheads with branches of the organisation Blood and Honour in neighbouring countries as well as Britain, Sweden, Hungary and Slovenia. In the unprecedented operation at the weekend, police arrested a dozen people and seized several hundred recordings, badges and pamphlets with racist and fascist content. The police claim that they managed to paralyse the most radical branch of the skinhead movement in the Czech Republic.

Protection of embassies continues

The Czech police will continue with increased protection of some embassies in Prague. Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich announced this decision after a consultation with police and intelligence service representatives. The stricter security measures are connected with a recent unspecified terrorist threat against the British and United States' embassies in Prague. The embassies resumed limited operation on Monday after they were closed for several days because of the threat.

Havel: meeting may be without ODS

President Havel has admitted that his planned meeting with representatives of the mainstream political parties might go ahead without the presence of the Civic Democratic Party. Havel will, however, consult the other parties whether there would be any point in such a meeting. "If they agree," Havel said, "Yowl organize the meeting without the Civic Democrats." President Havel has recently invited the chairmen of the political parties represented in the parliament except the Communist for talks about the political and economic situation of the country. Only the Civic Democrats did not accept the invitation.

Czech weather report

Now, let's take a quick look at the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered snow showers, afternoon highs should hover around zero. Wednesday and Thursday should be much the same, cloudy with snow showers, with temperatures slightly below zero.

And that's the end of the news.