News Tuesday, JANUARY 11th, 2000

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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.

Prisoners protest

Prisoners in several Czech prisons have started a mutiny. According to the latest reports, there has been a domino effect and more and more prisons have been joining the protests. The prisoners protest against a new law on the execution of criminal sentences which includes new stricter provisions. They also complain about overcrowding, bad food and unsatisfactory sanitary conditions. The representatives of the prison authority, the ministry of justice and members of parliament are to meet with the protesting prisoners today.

Czech ambassador to Russia steps down

The Czech ambassador to Russia, Lubos Dobrovsky has resigned his post. Dobrovsky said he decided to step down because of differences of opinion with the ministry of foreign affairs. He denied any political reasons for his decision. Dobrovsky cited an agreement between the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of industry and trade which could in his opinion destabilise the Czech foreign service.

Unemployment rises again

The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has risen again and has reached a record high. After stagnating in the last quarter of 1999, the unemployment rate reached 9.4 percent at the end of December, up from 9 percent in November. The lowest rate of unemployment was reported in Prague and Central Bohemia - around 3 percent, and the highest number of jobless people - up to 20 percent - was recorded in some North Bohemian and North Moravian regions, which have been suffering from high unemployment for some time now.

IPB admitted circumventing CNB regulations

One of the largest Czech banks, IPB, admitted circumventing Czech National Bank regulations. IPB shifted a large amount of doubtful loans into two daughter companies as a way to avoid creating additional provisions. Without this move, the bank would need to report a multibillion-crown loss for 1999. The non-performing loans are secured by real estate, but the Czech National Bank requires full provisions against such loans.

Zeman looks for new ministers

Premier Milos Zeman has offered ministerial posts to some of his party's top representatives, including for example deputy leader Stanislav Gross. Zeman has been under pressure from the senior opposition Civic Democrats to replace several ministers. Zeman is looking for new people for the posts of the ministers of interior, health and transport. The CTK news agency reported that changes in the cabinet are to be decided within two weeks.

Zieleniec satisfied with apology

Former foreign minister Josef Zielenic has welcomed Prime Minister Milos Zeman's and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan's apologies. The two cabinet members had accused Zieleniec of bribing journalists during his term as the foreign minister. Both Mr. Kavan and Mr. Zeman admitted that they had no evidence of Zieleniec's alleged wrongdoings. Zieleniec said he would now leave it up to voters whether they will vote for liars again in the next elections.

1999 inflation low

The year-on-year inflation rate in December was 2.5 percent. The Consumer Price Index in the last month of 1999 rose by 0.5 percent, and the so-called net inflation reached 1.5 percent compared to the same period in 1998. Analysts see the 1999 results as positive, despite a sharper increase at the end of the year. For the year 2000, economic experts expect inflation to reach between 4 to 5 percent.

Gas explosion wrecks family house

A family house in the North Moravian town of Mosty has been destroyed by an explosion. Local officials said the explosion was caused by gas. No casualties were reported. The explosion is being investigated by police and the local gas company.

Industrial production in November higher

Industrial production in November rose by 3.6 percent year-on-year which was the highest increase in 1999, the Czech Statistics Office announced. However, for the first eleven months of 1999 industrial production fell by more than four percent.

Czech refineries cut petrol prices

Czech oil refineries have radically cut petrol prices - the most dramatic reduction in fuel prices within one week over the past year. The move may be connected with a previous announcement by the largest Czech refinery company, Ceska rafinerska, to adopt a more aggressive business policy.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. The weather in Central Europe on Tuesday will be under the influence of a high pressure area. We are expecting a cloudy to partially cloudy day, afternoon highs should range from 2 degrees Celsius below zero to 2 above. And a brief outlook for the next two days: it should be partially cloudy with fog or low cla aaoud formations in some areas, with the highest daytime temperatures reaching between 3 degrees Celsius below zero to 1 above.