News Tuesday, OCTOBER 03th, 2000

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By: Daniela Lazarova

Czech Foreign Ministry urges end to bloodshed in the Gaza strip

The Czech Foreign Ministry has condemned renewed Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Gaza strip, urging both sides to show restraint and consider the impact of the bloodshed on the Middle East peace process. In a statement published on Monday the Czech Foreign Ministry said it considered the use of force counterproductive , urging the two sides to go back to the negotiating table and bring the situation under control. Thirty-five people are reported to have been killed in five days of street fighting, the worst sustained violence in the region for at least four years.

Inspection team investigates allegations of police brutality

An inspection team of the Interior Ministry is investigating allegations of police brutality against anti-globalization activists in the street riots that accompanied the IMF and WB session here in Prague. The police detained close to 900 protesters for questioning in the course of that week. Over 120 foreign protesters were expelled from the country. Sixteen people, mostly foreign nationals, have been charged with assaulting a police officer or damaging private property. Over the past few days there have been protests at Czech embassies in several European cities, most recently in London, Rome and Warsaw, regarding alleged police brutality, and a group of Independent legal observers has said it will file charges against the police for allegedly beating up two protesters.

Interior Minister defends his men

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who had high praise for the discipline and dedication with which the police tackled this crisis, told the media he had yet to see convincing evidence of police brutality against demonstrators. He warned those who were behind what he called "a slander campaign against the Czech police force" to keep in mind the fact that they could be sued for making false accusations. In what is seen as the most serious test of its credibility to date, the Czech police force has likewise won overwhelming support from the general public and politicians for its handling of the street riots. Over 40% of Czechs feel the police were too soft with the rock and petrol bomb throwing protesters and the authorities are now discussing measures which would allow the police to use rubber bullets against highly aggressive protest groups in the future.

Health minister on promised pay-rises

The Czech Health Minister Bohumil Fischer has warned hospital managers who do not give their employees the promised end of the year pay-rises to expect an audit into their finances. Minister Fischer, who has received numerous complaints and threats of strike action from doctors and nurses, said that with good management hospitals should be able to provide the promised pay-rises as of October 1st. He said "heads would roll" if this were not done. A number of hospital managers had indicated that since they had not been allotted extra money the promised pay-rises would not materialize. The health minister has advised these institutions to draw on their own reserves, saying that if they couldn't then they were guilty of mismanaging funds.

Environment Minister says he is not procrastinating

Amidst continuing controversy over the activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia , Czech Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart has assured Prime Minister Milos Zeman that an assessment of the plant's impact on the environment would not hold up the plant's launch. The head of Cabinet invited minister Kuzvart to a private meeting following a complaint from Industry and Trade minister Miroslav Gregr who accused the Environment Ministry of doing everything in its power to delay the plant's activation. Minister Kuzvart said that the report in question would be compiled as soon as possible, and pointed out that it could have been available even now had the power utility CEZ been persuaded to provide the respective materials sooner.

Greenpeace activists block Czech embassy in Vienna

Meanwhile, protests against Temelin continue in neighbouring Austria and Germany. Greenpeace activists blocked the entrance to the Czech embassy in Vienna for several hours on Monday in protest against the planned activation of the Temelin nuclear power plant . The protesters used mock nuclear waste barrels to block the embassy's main gate and carried banners warning of the risks of a nuclear accident. "A second Chernobyl in the middle of Europe must be avoided by all means" their spokesman said. The Austrian government has asked the Czech authorities to postpone the launch of Temelin and allow an international team of nuclear experts to assess the plant's safety standard. Meanwhile, the Czech government maintains that the plant adheres to strict international safety norms and says that plans to activate it will go ahead. The power utility CEZ, which built Temelin , is expected to ask the Czech Nuclear Energy Agency for permission to activate the plant within the space of a fortnight.

President Havel –illness

The President's Office has announced that it has cancelled the President's work engagements over the next two days due to illness. President Havel , who lost part of his lung to cancer and has a history of bronchial problems, is said to be suffering from a bad cold and has been advised to take things easy for a few days. The president's spokesman said there was no cause for immediate concern.

And finally, a quick look at the weather: Tuesday should bring partly cloudy to overcast skies across the Czech Republic. A belt of rain moving eastward across the country, which brought persistent rain over Prague and the north-western part of the country in general over the past 24 hours, is expected to descend on Moravia on Tuesday , so expect plenty of rain there. Some residual scattered showers in Bohemia as well, with temp between 13 and 17 degs C.