News Tuesday, JANUARY 16th, 2001

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By: Nick Carey

Foreign Ministry protests against arrest of MP in Cuba

The Czech Foreign Ministry has lodged a complaint with the Cuban charges d'affaires over the arrest of a Czech politician in Cuba on Friday. The ministry had previously confirmed that Czech Member of Parliament, Ivan Pilip, was arrested during a private visit to Cuba, allegedly after meeting members of the Cuban opposition. Mr Pilip, an MP for the right-of-centre Freedom Union and a former Finance Minister, is being detained by Cuban police in the capital Havana. A Ministry spokesman said Mr Pilip was arrested on Friday in the town of Ciego de Avila, accused of what Cuban officials termed 'violating residence regulations.' Another Czech citizen, Jan Bubenik, a former student leader, was also arrested. The Foreign Ministry's protest includes a complaint over Mr Pilip's arrest and the fact that ministry officials have not been able to contact Czech representatives in Cuba. Sources believe that the two men will be expelled from the country within a few days.

Journalists call on MPs to resign

An organisation representing journalists from Czech Television has called on three MPS to resign. The journalists, who have been on strike for more than three weeks over the selection of the Czech Television Supervisory Board by political parties, and alleged political bias within the board, have called on Ivan Langer and Katerina Dostalova of the main opposition Civic Democrats and Miloslav Kucera of the ruling Social Democrats, to retire from Czech political life. The journalists claim that the three MPs were in frequent contact with members of the board, and influenced its selection of Jiri Hodac as general director of Czech Television. Mr. Hodac resigned on Thursday, and the supervisory board was removed by the Lower House of Parliament after a marathon 18-hour session on Friday. The MPs in question have refused to step down, saying that any contact they had with the supervisory board was legitimate.

Journalists and Czech TV management fail to reach agreement

On a related note, union members representing the journalists at Czech Television met with management representatives of Czech TV at government headquarters on Monday. The meeting lasted until after midnight, and both sides failed to come to an agreement. The meeting's participants refused to comment afterwards, saying merely that they welcome these talks as a way to resolve the crisis in Czech TV. The next round of talks is due later on Tuesday.

Austrian Social Democrats call for new safety tests at Temelin

The Austrian Social Democrats have called for tests to be carried out at the Temelin nuclear power plant by international experts, after a minor fire at the plant on Friday. The fire was apparently caused by an oil leak, and a spokesman for the station said that this did not pose a threat to safety. Oil leaking from a turbine at Temelin caught fire, but the flames were apparently extinguished within minutes. The spokesman said the turbine was not operational when the accident happened and stressed that it had not affected the plant's safety in any way. The opposition Austrian Social Democrats, have demanded that further tests be carried out on the plant's turbines, and that international experts be included in the process.

Budget deficit higher than expected

Economic news now, and a Finance Ministry spokesman said on Monday that the government's budget deficit for the year 2000 will be around thirty percent higher than planned. The government, said the spokesman, had spent around ten billion Czech Crowns, or more than two hundred million dollars, more than the figure approved by the Lower house for the budget last year. Opposition politicians have called on the government for an explanation.

Weather

And finally, a quick look at Wednesday's weather: we can expect another cold but cloudy day, with the possibility of snow showers in places. Daytime temperatures will fail to get above minus two degrees Celsius. Night-time lows are expected to drop to minus 12 degrees.