News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 24th, 1998

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Radio Prague E news Date: February 24, 1998 Written/read by: Alena Skodova

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm AS and we start as usual with the news:

New people in government

After Jiri Skalicky's resignation as deputy premier and Environment minister, premier Josef Tosovsky is considering one or two candidates for the post of environment minister but has not yet addressed either of them. "I have one or two names in mind," Tosovsky has told newsmen, "but I have not addressed them yet. As far as the post of deputy premier is concerned, I'm still leaving it open." Skalicky said that he had consulted the matter of his sucessor with Tosovsky , but that the final decision was fully up to the premier. On Monday evening, Skalicky was invited to the Government Office for lunch with his former colleagues, where premier Tosovsky thanked him for his work in several governments.

Skalicky-Havel

Skalicky has also visited president Vaclav Havel, to whom he handed over a written material, which brings more light into the financing of the Civic democratic alliance, ODA, whose chairman Skalicky was till last week. The material shows that ODA has not broken the law, but contrary to the spirit of the law and good manners it agreed with receiving donations from anonymous donors without trying to learn what the origin of the donated means was.

Czech assistance - Iraq

The Czech government has promised to assist a possible military attack against Iraq, by sending out a field hospital. According to Defence minister Michal Lobkowitz, the Czech government agreed upon this at its Monday session, but this move is still to be approved by the House of Deputies. The hospital would have altogether 80 workers - 30 doctors and 50 nurses. At its last session, the cabinet gave permission for the allied forces' planes to fly over the Czech territory.

Foreign ministry welcomes Annan's agreement

Meanwhile, the Czech foreign ministry has welcomed a newly signed agreement on the United Nations military inspections in Iraq, which -- according to the ministry - helps to bring a peaceful solution of the present crisis nearer. However the Czech foreign ministry will take final standpoint to the problem after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan acquaints UN Security council with the content of the agreement.

Hostages - Georgia

The situation around the three members of the United Nations Observer mission held hostage in Georgia remains unclear. One of them is a Czech citizen - lieutenant-colonel Jaroslav Kulisek. "Our patience has its limits," said president Shevardnadze in an interview for Georgian televisiom but expressed his preparedness to negotiate with the kidnappers. An armed group of supporters of the late president Zviad Gamsakhurdia kindnapped four UN mission members last Thursday, released one of the two Uruguayian hostages on Sunday, and is holding the remaining three in a small village near the town Zugdidi. The kidnappers demand a direct political dialogue between Shevardnadze and representatives of the opposition. Shevardnadze is ready to meet this demand, saying that since 1992, when he became Georgia's president, he has suggested holding talks with Gamsakhurdia's supporters many times.

Hockey players in Prague

After a euphoric Sunday, when the Czech ice-hockey team won the gold medal in Nagano, Prague gave the players a hero's welcome on their return late Monday. A large crowd gathered at Ruzyne airport where the team was welcomed by premier Josef Tosovsky. Immediately after, a special bus took them to the presidential villa in Prague's 6th district, where president Havel personally thanked them for their outstanding performance and good representation of the Czech republic in Nagano. From the president's home the hockey players arrived in the Old Town square in downtown Prague, where again, tens of thousands of fans were waiting to greet them. Both young and old embraced, drank champagne and sang songs in honour of the country's first ever Winter Olympic gold and the revenge over their Russian rivals. The heady evening ended with a late-night celebration on Zofin island.

Weather

And finally the weather: we expect a cloudy day in the Czech republic today, with afternnon highs around 9 degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.