News Tuesday, MARCH 31st, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: March 31, 1998, 0700 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

Hello from Prague, I am Libor Kubik.

GOVT-MINERS-STRIKE-APPEAL

The Czech government appealed to coal-miners' unions in North Bohemia on Monday to call off their strike alert and start negotiations. The cabinet said it was sending Deputy Premier Josef Lux and Trade and Industry Minister Karel Kuehnl to the region.

Government spokesman Vladimir Mlynar said the cabinet considers the strike alert, called last week in three North Bohemian mines, an irresponsible and unduly confrontational behaviour.

The dispute is over government plans to privatise state shares in Czech mines. Union leaders fear their potential new West European owners could close them.

EU-ENLARGEMENT

The Czech Republic and five other front-runner states bidding to join the European Union today present their cases to the 15-member bloc, starting a marathon race to membership early in the next decade.

Foreign ministers from 26 countries met in Brussels on Monday to start the process of uniting Europe in a partnership of shared rights, duties, and prosperity.

Czech Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy said a berth in the EU would give his country its rightful place where it would have been if it had not been a victim of historical events and communism.

MALTA-LIBYA-CZECH-HOTELS

The Czech intelligence agency BIS On Monday presented the government with a report on the purchase of several Czech hotels by a Malta-based group with strong connections to Libya, a country under United Nations sanctions because of its alleged support for international terrorism.

BIS chief Karel Vulterin said the report was his organisation's independent initiative and not something commissioned by the government.

Malta has protested to the Czech government and sent an envoy to Prague over comments by a Czech minister that the purchase of hotels in Prague by the Corinthia Hotels Group is unacceptable.

Malta's Premier Alfred Sant says false reports have been circulating in Prague that the Corinthia is Libyan-owned and therefore subject to US and UN sanctions.

The Czech government is considering legal action to stop Corinthia's purchasing of hotels in Prague and elsewhere and the Czech deputy prime minister has declared his opposition to the sale.

The validity of the purchase is being investigated by the Prague Magistrate Court.

CZECH-UN-CROATIA

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has thanked Czech soldiers for their professional service to the UN peace- keeping operations in the Croat province of Eastern Slavonia.

Annan wrote in a letter to Czech UN Ambassador Vladimir Galuska on Monday that the Czechs' performance had met the steep standards for members of peace-keeping forces, set by the United Nations.

The Czech Army operated a field surgical hospital for almost two years in the East Slavonian town of Klise.

CZECH-CURRENCY-STEADY

The Czech crown steadied on Monday to 18.45 to one German mark, the highest level since the middle of last year. But a dealer from one of the country's top banks, Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Banka, says he does not expect any remarkable movements in the crown's exchange rate.

He said calling off a planned coal-miners' strike in North Bohemia over the proposed privatisation of government stakes in the industry potentially could have an impact, though.

CZECH-SOCCER

Football -- and all eyes were firmly set on Monday's derby between league leaders Sparta Prague and their second-place cross-town rivals Slavia, the 133rd league meeting between the two.

The match ended in a one to one draw.

Slavia, 10 points behind Sparta, needed at least one point away from the match if they want to keep their hopes of taking the league alive.

CZECH-TENNIS-DAVIS CUP

Tennis -- and Bohdan Ulihrach and Daniel Vacek will lead the Czech Republic against Switzerland in their Davis Cup world group first round tie this weekend.

Joining the two, who are world-ranked 52nd and 85th respectively, for the encounter in Zurich will be lower-ranked Martin Damm and Jiri Novak.

Non-playing captain Vladislav Savrda was forced to choose a considerably weakened team after world number three Petr Korda said he would no longer play on the team because it took too much energy out of him.

Czech number three Slava Dosedel, ranked 59th, also declined as he had not played indoors for several weeks.

CZECH-WEATHER

Tuesday's weather -- we expect afternoon highs between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.

On Wednesday the temperatures will be the same but by Thursday we should be in for some scattered showers and temperatures a notch or two lower.

And that's the end of the news.