News Tuesday, SEPTEMBER 19th, 2000

By Libor Kubik

From Monday September 18th Radio Prague's broadcasts in English on the f101.1 FM frequency in Prague will change. Instead of our current times of 7.15am, 1.15pm and 5.30pm, we will broadcast a fifteen-minute programme at 9.45am, and our half-hour programme will move to the later time of 9.30 in the evening. You will also be able to hear our broadcasts not only in Prague but also on the BBC's FM frequencies in other Czech towns and cities.

IMF/World Bank summit opens in Prague

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank start their autumn summit in Prague today while police are bracing themselves for mass anti-globalization protests.

At the conference which closes on September 28, some 18,000 economic experts from around the world are due to debate a host of international financial issues, including debt relief for the poorest countries.

Protest groups have threatened to disrupt the meeting. Non-governmental organizations involved accuse the body of harming people in the developing countries through their policies.

Czech army troops have been brought in to support riot police, while school children have been given holidays and residents were urged to stock up on groceries in case protests close streets.

On Sunday, the finance ministers of the G-7 group of highly industrialised nations are due to meet as part of the conference.

Truckers call off road blockades

Czech lorry drivers and the government have agreed to hold further talks on alleviating the impacts of rising fuel costs and the truckers have called off planned blockades of main Czech roads.

However, the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, during his meeting with a delegation of the Cesmad Bohemia truckers' association, ruled out consumer tax breaks on petrol and diesel.

The truckers said they were only partly satisfied with the outcomes of the meeting. But they said there would be no labour action taken as long as negotiations are underway.

PM shelves US trip, cites fuel pricing problems

The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman has said he will postpone his scheduled visit to the United States because of the opposition's calls for consumer tax breaks on petrol and diesel fuel.

Speaking in Brno, Mr. Zeman argued that lower fuel taxes would reduce state budget revenues by about 11 billion crowns.

However, the influential political weekly RESPEKT reported on Monday that the prime minister's trip had been called off after the United States government expressed reservations about a Czech-born American member of the visit-organising team who is said to be suspected of serious crimes including complicity in the murder of a US drug-enforcement agent.

Temelin: Havel will not negotiate under pressure

Czech President Vaclav Havel has said that while he doesn't avoid talking to environmental activists, he is not prepared to negotiate under pressure.

The president was speaking in Southern Moravia a few kilometres away from the Dukovany nuclear power plant.

Dukovany, besides the soon-to-open controversial Temelin plant, are the Czech Republic's two nuclear power facilities. Both of them are situated in the vicinity of the Austrian border.

Meanwhile, the Upper Austrian opponents of Temelin have announced suspending a series of border blockades in an effort to make life easier for a joint Czech-Austrian commission of experts and members of parliament examining environmental impacts of Temelin.

They appealed to the Czech authorities and parliament to put off the launch of Temelin until early next year and hold public hearings on the problem.

Govt. approves final draft budget

The Czech government has passed the final version of its draft budget for next year, envisaging a 20-billion-crown deficit. Prime Minister Milos Zeman welcomed the result of his cabinet's meeting as a show of solidarity in the ranks of his Social Democrat ministers.

Although the budget doesn't fully meet the conditions of the power-sharing Civic Democrats, it is widely expected that it will be passed by parliament where the two power-sharing partners command a majority of seats.

Activists ask Havel to pardon protesters against war in Chechnya

A Czech human rights group has launched a petition asking President Havel to pardon four young people, each sentenced to a hundred hours of community service for smearing the Russian Consulate in Brno with paint in protest against the war in Chechnya.

One of the petition organisers says their goal is to collect at least 300 signatures. The organisers have described the painting of the consulate last December as an act of civic courage worthy of appraisal.

The court said earlier this month that although human rights were violated in Chechnya, the protesters should have chosen another form of expressing their views.

Govt. to raise old age pensions

The Social Democrat cabinet of Prime Minister Milos Zeman says old-age pensioners may look forward to higher pensions as of December.

Government Spokesman Libor Roucek said on Monday that the main condition for this step increase, a five-percent growth of consumer prices, would have been met by then.

He said the step increase was also designed to narrow the gap between pensions granted before and after January 1996.

Olympics: Czech wins bronze medal in 50 metre pistol

Olympics -- and Martin Tenk of the Czech Republic added a second bronze medal to his country's inventory in a nerve-wracking 50 m men's pistol final in Sydney.

Bulgarian Tanyu Kiriakov placed first, followed by Igor Basinsky of Belarus.

Olympics: Emil and Dana Zatopek mark joint birthday

Dana and Emil Zatopek, arguably the best known married couple in the sporting world, both turn 78 today. Unfortunately, the birthday party for two cannot be held at home. Emil Zatopek, the phenomenal long-distance runner, is recovering from pneumonia in a Prague hospital.

Emil Zatopek won three gold medals in a single day at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. His wife Dana, a javelin-thrower, added another precious gold to their family collection that same year.

Both athletes are eagerly following the Olympics in Sydney and rejoice over Czech medal wins.

Czech weather forecast

And finally, a look at the weather here in the Czech Republic.

After a foggy morning, Tuesday will be a mild September day with daytime highs between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius , dropping to between seven and 11 degrees at night.

Wednesday will bring us daytime temperatures between 20 and 24 Celsius, although the morning will also be rather misty. Evening lows will drop to between 10 and 14 degrees.

And on Thursday, we expect afternoon highs from 17 to 21 Celsius.