News Wednesday, APRIL 28th, 1999

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

Finance ministry expects higher state budget deficit

The finance ministry's forecast of a higher state budget deficit than expected has evoked serious criticism from right wing opposition mps, although many say it comes as no surprise. A finance ministry forecast says this year's deficit may reach 47,34 billion, although the envisaged deficit was 31 billion crowns. The forecast envisages a maximum deficit in the year 2,000, predicted at over 80 billion, and a lowering of the state deficit in later years, around 77 billion crowns in the year 2001 and 10 billion less in the following year. Prime minister Zeman has said his Cabinet would take active measures to prevent next year's budget deficit crossing the 80 billion crown mark.

Kavan says Czech Republic and Russia not working on a peace plan

Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan has rejected the notion that the Czech Republic is working closely with Russia on a solution to the Kosovo crisis. Kavan said he had been misquoted by the dpa newsagency which had inquired about Premier Zeman's recent visit to Russia. Having said that, the Czech foreign minister added he thought it important to encourage Russian diplomats to continue in their efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict and bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Czech foreign ministry advises Czechs to stay out of Montenegro

In connection with the ongoing military conflict the Czech foreign ministry has issued a statement advising Czech nationals to avoid travelling to Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The statement warns holiday makers who plan on spending time in Croatia not to stray beyond its borders since the situation in the other republics is "extemely complicated" not only due to the hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees but in terms of security as well.

Orange bows to protest air strikes

The Humanitarian Alliance staged a quiet protest action against NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia on Prague's Old Town Square on Tuesday afternoon. Activists distributed orange bows to all participants and casual passers by who shared this view, as a symbol of their opposition to the use of force. " There are many of us who feel that the air strikes are doing a lot more harm than good -we want these people to stand out and make their views known" one of the organizers said. Although the ctk says that there were verbal skirmishes between people with opposing views on this, no disturbances have been reported. The Humanitarian alliance is organizing what it calls a festival in aid of peace on Prague's Namesti Miru, or Peace Square under the motto "For a Europe without wars". It is to take place on May 15th.

Greenpeace says long-term energy policy is no good

Greenpeace activists on Tuesday staged a demonstration outside Kolodej Chateau when the government was meeting to debate, among other economic issues, the industry minister's long-term energy policy. Environmentalists said the proposed policy was misguided and potentially very harmful. It envisages renewed uranium mining, opening a new coal mine in the vicinity of the Beskydy mountains and increasing mining in North Bohemia, already known as the "black triangle". The concept, which also envisages the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant, is based on future energy exports which is all wrong, one of the Greens told the ctk.

Havel Canada

President Havel and the First Lady begin a three day official visit to Canada on Wednesday. The President wants to use the opportunity to thank Canadian top officials for supporting the Czech Republic's admission to NATO and discuss the exodus of Czech Romanies which created considerable problems for the Canadian authorities and resulted in the introduction of visa requirements for Czech nationals.

Pianist tries to diffuse tension on Korean frontier

A Czech pianist attempted to disperse tension along the heavily fortified frontier between North and South Korea Tuesday by playing selections from the works of Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana and Sylvie Bodorova. It appears that the concert was organized by the Swedish, Swiss and Polish delegations to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and the Czech embassy. "We believe that bringing culture to this place of confrontation is a way of confidence building, one of the organizers explained. Although North Korean guards are said to have peered at the scene through binoculars from nearby observation towers, the report does not say what effect the music had on them.

More aid for Kosovo

Two more trucks of humanitarian supplies have left Prague for Macedonia. Dispatched by the People in Need Foundation they contain non-perishable food stuffs, shoes and warm clothes for children and grown-ups as well as sweets and toys for the children. The aid was financed by the Czech Catholic Charity.

Finally, a look at the weather:

Wednesday should bring patches of morning fog, partly cloudy skies and a slight drop in day temps to between 15 and 18 degs.