News Wednesday, APRIL 21st, 1999

Those were the headlines and now the news in more detail:

Both Houses of Parliament to vote on NATO military requirements

Special sessions of both houses of Parliament have been called for Wednesday to approve the use of Czech airfields and transit of NATO troops through Czech territory in connection with the alliance's military operations in Yugoslavia. Although the Cabinet on Monday gave its approval to all of the above under Czech law both the deployment of Czech troops abroad and the presence of foreign troops on Czech territory must be approved by both houses of Parliament.

Vice premier Pavel Rychetsky admitted that NATO was not happy with this state of affairs arguing that at times of crisis some decisions had to be made within " minutes or hours ". In this connection, Rychetsky on Tuesday visited the Senate where he argued in favour of a government proposed amendment to the law which would give the Cabinet the right to make such a decision, valid for a period of 60 days , on the understanding that both houses of Parliament would have to vote on the issue before that term expires.

Meanwhile, president Havel has expressed satisfaction with the way the government is handling the matter and the promptness with which the special sessions of both chambers were called.

Wall poses problems for human rights commissioner

The mayor and several dozen citizens of the north Bohemian town of Usti nad Labem have asked the government to recall Petr Uhl as its human rights commissioner. In an open letter to the government they claim that Uhl has damaged the towns reputation and put off potential investors by presenting it as a racist community. This is in connection with a long running row over the city council's plans to build a wall separating an estate inhabited by Romanies from that of its neighbours. The citizens in question said that what was at stake was a social problem not a racist issue and that Uhl no longer acted in defense of human rights as such but had turned into a Roma advocate.

Havel goes on walkabout in Prague

President Havel on Tuesday focused his attention on life in the Czech capital, going on a walkabout in the city centre and visiting a number of institutions, including the city Congress Hall which is to host a meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in the year 2,000. In late afternoon the president met with students of the Prague School of Economics to discuss foreign policy issues and local concerns.

Zeman - Uzbekistan

On an economic mission to the states of central Asia , Czech Premier Milos Zeman has been holding talks in Tashkent on means of expanding trade with Uzbekistan . Zeman and Uzbeki president Islam Karimov on Tuesday signed a letter of intent on expanding bilateral cooperation and the Czech delegation handed over proposals for several dozens investment projects which their hosts said would be carefully considered. The Czech delegation will likewise be present at the opening of an expo entitled " The Czech Republic - your business partner" in Tashkent. Trade between the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan has been on the wane in recent years. In 1998 the Czech republic exported 546 million crowns worth of engineering products, consumer goods and livestock to Uzbekistan, while importing largely cotton to the tune of 1,4 billion crowns.

Temelin - demonstration

Trade unions from a number of Czech electric power stations and the Dukovany nuclear power plant are planning to demonstrate in favour of the completion of Temelin, the nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia on the fate of which the government is expected to reach a decision in May. Part of the action, which is to be held on Jan Palach's Square in Prague on Wednesday, will be the signing of a petition in support of Temelin which trade union representatives want to hand over to Cabinet later. Trade unions argue that after the year 2,000 power consumption is likely to grow rather than decrease and that it would be incredibly short sighted to scrap the plant at this stage.

Krecek may be fined

The action of an environment activist who disrupted the signing ceremony of the Czech Republic's accession papers to NATO here in Prague is being regarded as a misdemeanour. Jan Krecek interrupted President Havel's speech for several minutes, blowing a whistle and brandishing a burning card with NATOs logo as a means of expressing his opposition to the Czech Republic's accession to the alliance. A police spokesperson said the incident could not be treated as anything more than a misdemeanour for which Krecek may be fined.

French delegates in Parliament

A French parliamentary delegation continues its three day visit to the Czech Republic. Following talks with vice-premier Egon Lansky on Tuesday the group is expected to meet with deputies of the foreign, security and defense committees of Parliament. At the focus of interest are bilateral relations, the Yugoslav crisis and European integration.

Finally a look at the weather:

morning fog should give way to partly cloudy to overcast skies, with denser cloud formations and scattered showers expected in the late afternoon hours. Day temps have been forecast at between 11 and 15 degs C. Nighttime lows plus two to minus two degs.