News Tuesday, MARCH 10th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: March 10, 1998 Written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top Czech stories at this hour. I am Libor Kubik in Studio 20, and here's the news in more detail.

CZECH-POLAND-KOSOVO

Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski on Monday sharply condemned the violence by Serb security forces in Kosovo.

They said in a joint statement in Warsaw that in Kosovo, the strength of arguments was being replaced by the argument of strength. They warned it was high time to prevent a further escalation of national terror and insanity.

The two leaders stressed it was not purely an internal matter for states whether human rights and minority rights are observed.

Havel and Kwasniewski urged Yugoslavia to begin a constructive political dialogue with its ethnic Albanian minority.

President Havel is on a three-day state visit to Poland for talks on the two countries' accession to NATO and the European Union.

And here in Prague, Senator Michael Zantovsky, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Committee, said on Monday the Czech Republic should take part in any possible international military action to help defuse the crisis in Kosovo.

Senator Zantovsky told CTK on Monday Kosovo was the potential hotbed of a new conflict in the Balkans.

HAVEL-SLOVAKIA

Czech President Vaclav Havel expressed deep concern on Monday over the latest developments in the neighbouring Slovakia, whose government of Premier Vladimir Meciar last week amnestied the kidnappers of the son of former president Michal Kovac, and officials who frustrated last year's referendum on Slovakia's NATO entry.

Speaking shortly before the start of his state visit to Poland, Havel expressed hope that Slovakia's dormant democratic potential will prevail. He said the Czech Republic cannot go on playing dead beetle forever, but he did not specifically comment on Slovak issues, citing his country's commitment to good-neighbourly relations with Slovakia.

Czech Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy said last week his country was carefully analysing the situation in Slovakia.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said on Monday it was acutely aware of what it described as the growing tensions in Slovakia. But the ministry said in a statement it hoped that Bratislava would continue to pledge allegiance to the principles of democracy and a law-abiding state.

The ministry said it was carefully monitoring the situation in the neighbouring country.

It said Prague wants Bratislava to belong in future to the same Euro-Atlantic and European organisations as the Czech Republic.

HAVEL-OPPOSITION

Czech Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman indirectly criticised President Havel on Monday for saying earlier in the day he is not that sure Zeman will be the next prime minister.

Zeman said Havel should be more cautious in his remarks because he won his current presidency by a single vote -- that of Zeman's.

CZECH-U.S.-NATO-SHALIKASHVILI

The former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvili, said in Prague on Monday the ratification of the Czech NATO entry should be expedited.

During a meeting with Czech Senator Michael Zantovsky, Shalikashvili said the Czech parliament should ratify the accession documents as soon as possible.

The main opposition Social Democrats have demanded that the ratification be put off until after the early general elections, scheduled for June.

Czech Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz said on Monday he believed parliament would ratify NATO membership before the elections. He said he did not believe a referendum, which is the stated policy of the Social Democrats, would be necessary.

Social Democrat leader Milos Zeman described the rejection of such a referendum as contempt of the Czech nation.

CZECH-NATO-CLASSIFIED

NATO Security Bureau Chief Peter Gallant meets Czech Interior Minister Cyril Svoboda on Tuesday over the Czech classified information bill, a legislature seen vital for Czech accession to the alliance.

The bill is being debated by two parliamentary committees before it is put forward in the full house.

NATO-PARTNERS-EXERCISE

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has begun its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s.

Held in Norway, Portugal, Spain and their territorial waters and airspace, the war game is being attended by 15 NATO countries and 10 states, including the Czech Republic, associated in the Partnership for Peace programme.

The objective is to test the allied forces' ability to solve regional conflicts.

CZECH-WEATHER

A quick look at the weather -- we expect a wet and cold Tuesday with scattered snow showers and early morning lows between five and nine Celsius below freezing. Maximum daytime temperatures on Tuesday around zero Celsius, and about seven degrees below freezing at elevations above 1000 metres.

An outlook for Wednesday and Thursday -- expect freezing nights with temperatures around minus 10 Celsius on both nights, and daytime highs from minus two to plus two Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.