News Tuesday, NOVEMBER 23rd, 1999

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.

Czech Republic mourns Lux's death

The Czech Republic is mourning the death of former leader of the Christian Democratic Party Josef Lux. Lux died of pneumonia early on Monday in the United States. Lux had suffered from leukeamia and undergone a bone marrow transplant at a clinic in Seattle.

President Vaclav Havel is convinced that the Czech Republic has lost an open and honest man. Lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus who as a former premier spent 7 years in government with Josef Lux, received the news with great sorrow. He described Lux as a man who made every effort to reach the ideals he firmly believed in.

Josef Lux's successor in the post of Christian Democrat chairman, Jan Kasal regards his predecessor's departure as a big loss not only for the party but also the whole political scene.

The government paid tribute to Josef Lux by a minute of silence during its session on Monday.

Lux's former government colleague and coalition partner, Jan Ruml, described him as one of the greatest statesmen the Czech Republic has ever had.

According to the highest representative of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, Cardinal Miroslav Vlk, even near his death, Josef Lux testified to his clear christian hope. Another representative of the Catholic Church in the Czech Republic, priest Tomas Halik, remembered Lux as a politician who brought deliberation, responsibility, and moral values to public life.

Czech Republic rejects Russia's protest note

The Czech Foreign Ministry has rejected a protest note which Russia sent to the Czech Republic because of a recent visit to Prague by Chechen foreign minister Ilyas Akhmadov. The Ministry rejected Russia's view that contacts with Chechen representatives were an act of hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Akhmadov visited Prague on Monday the 15th of November and met with a foreign ministry official and the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Czech Senate.

Moscow reacted with a protest note which said that it regards the visit as a serious intervention into Russia's internal affairs and an expression of support to Chechen terrorists.

The Czech Foreign Ministry says in its answer to the protest note that Russia's operation in Chechnya is no longer a Russian internal affair because it is accompanied by wide- spread and repeated human rights violations and the conflict inflicts serious suffering on civilians.

Decision to impose visas on former Soviet republics postponed

The Czech Republic will not introduce entry visas for citizens from the states of the former Soviet Union for the time being. At its session on Monday, the government did not approve proposals to terminate the visa-free regime with the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Nevertheless, the visas will have to be introduced before the Czech Republic joins the European Union.

TU considering withdrawing from social peace agreement

The Czech Confederation of Trade Unions is considering withdrawing from the social peace agreement if the cabinet does not quickly start to correct mistakes and shortcomings in the worst-afflicted areas of the Czech Republic. Trade Union leader Richard Falbr said that it is necessary to promptly act mainly in North Moravia and North Bohemia. Before deciding on concrete pressure actions, the Trade Unios want to meet with premier Milos Zeman and his deputies.

US sanctions against Czech and Kazakh companies

The United States has imposed sanctions on the Czech company Agroplast and the Kazakh firm Metallist for mediating a sale of 40 Mig-21 jet fighters to North Korea.

The US State Department said that it was taking steps to ban trade with these companies. Two executives of Agroplast were arrested earlier this year in Azerbaijan during an attempt to illegally export six Mig-21 fighter planes to North Korea. They were charged with illegal arms trade.

Agroplast is officially a mining and waste recycling company but according to the Czech intelligence service, it has been found to be one of the largest international arms smugglers.

The US sanctions will stay in effect for one year or until they are withdrawn.

Coalition of four to form a shadow cabinet

The coalition of four right-of-centre opposition parties are considering the formation of a shadow cabinet. The idea was put forward by the leader of the Freedom Union party, Jan Ruml. The outline of the shadow cabinet should be clear by the end of the year. Christian Democrat Tomas Kvapil said that unless the current political stalemate is broken soon, the coalition of four must present an alternative to the ruling Social Democratic Cabinet. Kvapil also criticized the main opposition Civic Democratic Party's shadow cabinet which in his view is merely a game for the public and media and does not come up with any serious solutions or proposals.

People far less critical of "normalisation" now than in 1990

People in the Czech Republic are much less critical of the period of "normalisation" between 1969 and 1989, according to a recent opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research.

The period of normalisation followed the Soviet-led Warsaw pact invasion in 1968 which crushed democratic reforms in the then Czechoslovakia. Whereas nine years ago, only 12 percent of the population positively evaluated the period and said that it had provided social guarantees, now 46 percent of Czechs say so. In 1990, a mere 2 percent of the people said they believed that the economic situation in the country was good during the years of the Soviet occupation, compared to 18 percent of people now. Some 8 percent of poll respondents said that the political climate was better between 1969 and 1989, a six percent increase since 1990.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered snow showers, afternoon highs should range from 2 degrees Celsius below zero to 2 above. The next two days should be much the same, cloudy or partially cloudy with occasional snow showers, with temperatures hovering around zero.