News Tuesday, FEBRUARY 29th, 2000

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Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

Those were the main points, now for the news in more detail.

Foreign Ministry praises Iranian elections, wants more trade

The Czech Foreign Ministry has appreciated the positive shifts which have been taking place in Iran over the past few years and which it considers are promising for the future, the ministry said in its reaction to the parliamentary elections in Iran. After the government recently decided to prevent the export of equipment for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran and before an April visit to Iran by deputy foreign ministry Hynek Kmonicek, the ministry stressed "permanent interest in developing good relations and mutual co-operation" between the Czech Republic and Iran. Prague also says it welcomes Iran's pragmatic attitude to co- operation in the trade and economic sphere and believes in further positive development.

Zeman meets Klaus over budget, cabinet changes

Prime Minister Milos Zeman and lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus, leader of the opposition Civic Democrats, have met to discuss the developments after the two parties signed several agreements concerning the state budget, government changes and EU accession earlier this year. The senior opposition Civic Democrats had made their approval of the state budget conditional on a cabinet reshuffle but Prime Minister Zeman said he would only replace some ministers after the budget had been approved. This idea, however, is strongly opposed by some MPs for the Civic Democratic Party who threaten to vote against the budget in the final reading in Parliament.

Prague hopes to defend later date for Telecom liberalisation

Prague hopes to defend a later date for the full liberalisation of the Czech telecommunications market. The EU has recently urged the Czech Republic to stick to the original date of January 2001, but the government insists on putting off certain steps until 2003. Many members of parliament see no reason for the Czech Republic to give in to European Union pressure, although the postponement prolongs the monopolistic practises of Czech Telecom. An unnamed source from Brussels recently warned that the European Commission might reopen the "telecommunications" chapter in the Czech Republic's accession negotiations. The Chamber of Deputies is expected to deal with the controversial bill on Friday.

Law on foreigners could complicate arrival of IMF delegates

The new Czech law that stiffened the conditions for entry of foreigners into the Czech Republic could cause problems for delegates to the annual IMF and World Bank session to be held in September in Prague. Under the new law that came in force at the beginning of this year, anyone who wants to enter the Czech Republic and is not a citizen of the United States, Canada, the EU, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway, Croatia, Israel, Japan or Slovenia must now fill in a special form at the border and enclose two photographs. They must also present a document proving that they have booked accommodation, a proof of health insurance and enough money for their stay and return journey. The law has already caused confusion and delays at the Czech Republic's border crossings.

Dutch banks no longer interested in Czech banks

The two largest Dutch banks, ABN Amro and ING Bank, have announced separately that they are no longer interested in taking over a Czech bank, although they had previously expressed interest in acquiring some of the large state-owned banks that were to be privatised. ABN said that its Czech operations were growing and it saw no reason to buy a traditional branch-based bank. The main reasons for such a decision are changes on the Czech market and the rapid development of electronic banking.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We’re expecting another warm day, but with rather cloudy skies. Afternoon highs should range from 8 to 11 degrees Celsius. The next two days should be cloudy with scattered showers, with the highest daytime temperatures around 5 degrees Celsius.