News Tuesday, OCTOBER 31st, 2000

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By Daniela Lazarova

Austria warns Czechs of serious consequences if Temelin is not closed down

Speaking on the eve of top-level Czech-Austrian negotiations aimed at resolving the neighbouring countries' differences over the Temelin nuclear power plant, Austrian Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer warned Prague that Vienna would thwart the Czech Republic's EU ambitions if the Temelin nuclear power plant remained operational. In a heavy-caliber statement on Monday Mrs. Riess- Passer, who heads the far right Freedom Party, said Austria would not sign the energy chapter needed for entry to the EU as long as the Soviet-designed power station remained active and no comprehensive security check was undertaken. Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel is to meet with the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Tuesday evening in a bid to defuse the increasingly fractious diplomatic row.

Temelin to go into higher activation phase

Meanwhile, the power utility company CEZ is awaiting permission to put the Temelin nuclear power plant into a higher activation phase. A spokesman for CEZ said the plant was ready to move into a higher gear as soon as the Czech Nuclear Energy Agency gave it the green light. He said the failure of one of the circulation pumps last Friday had been fixed and was not a serious set-back. The Czech Nuclear Energy Agency has confirmed this view, despite the fact that the nuclear chain reaction had to be stopped for several hours.

Czech police asks Interpol for help in hunting down killer

The Czech police have requested Interpol's assistance in the hunt for a dangerous killer who escaped from a maximum security prison in Moravia on Sunday. Hundreds of police officers have been combing the countryside, searching for the escapee –so far unsuccessfully. Jiri Kajinek, who was serving a life sentence in Mirov prison for two contract killings and an attempted third murder, is said to have overcome "insurmountable obstacles" to escape . He is the first prisoner ever to have escaped from Mirov.

Police have warned the public to be extremely cautious, since they believe the escapee will try to get hold of a weapon, car and money, but the fact that he has gone undetected for 36 hours shows that Kajinek may have had accomplices waiting, and may already have crossed the border.

Meanwhile, acting Justice Minister Pavel Rychetsky, who visited the Mirov prison house on Monday , criticized the prison management, arguing that Kajinek could not have escaped had the wardens not neglected their duties. The prison's director Kamila Meclova has promised to investigate the matter.

IMF calls on Czech government to curb budget deficit

An IMF mission to the Czech Republic has urged the Czech government to take fiscal measures aimed at curbing the country's steep budget deficit, while maintaining a flexible monetary policy. This is intended to prevent interest rate- growth and stabilize the Czech Crown. A steep deficit could lead the Czech National Bank to increase interest rates in order to keep the projected inflation target, which in turn would increase the value of the Czech Crown, adversely effect foreign investment and curb economic growth, the IMF report says.

President vetoes bill on Czech National Bank

President Havel has vetoed a bill on the Czech National Bank on the grounds that the proposed amendments would seriously undermine the bank's independence. The bill was recently vetoed by the Senate for this very reason, but the veto was overruled by the Lower Chamber where the governing Social Democrats and their opposition allies of the Civic Democratic Party have a majority. The President is due to meet with the Governor of the Czech National Bank Josef Tosovsky on Tuesday to discuss the matter. Opposition MPs who are opposed to the bill say that, since the President's veto can be overruled as well, they would take the matter to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the proposed law violates certain articles of the Constitution.

Czech Republic to join WEAG

The Czech Republic is to become a regular member of the West European Armaments Group on November 13th. Czech Defense Minister Vladimir Vetchy described this as an important step which would allow the incorporation of the Czech defense industry into European armaments programmes. It would also allow the Czech Republic to take an active part in the formation of a European Agency for Armaments, Vetchy said. The WEAG is an alliance of 13 European states, predominantly member states of the West European Union and the Czech Republic has so far only had observer status.

Prince Charles visits Czech Republic

Britain's Prince Charles is in the Czech Republic on a three day visit at the invitation of President Vaclav Havel. The Prince, who has a keen interest in historical architecture, has visited the Czech capital on several previous occasions, setting up a Prague Heritage Fund together with the Czech President. After a warm reception at Prague Castle on Monday afternoon, Prince Charles was taken on a brief tour of the Palffy and Ledeburg Gardens, now beautifully renovated with the help of the Prague Heritage Fund. He also made a brief appearance at the Prague Business Leaders Forum and The English College. On Monday night Prince Charles attended a banquet given in his honour . The second day of his visit is to be spent in Moravia, the eastern part of the Czech Republic.

Finally a look at the weather:

Tuesday should be a partly cloudy to overcast day with scattered showers and day temps between 12 and 16 degs C.