News Wednesday, DECEMBER 01th, 1999

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Bill Bathurst, first we start with a look at the main headlines of the day:

You are tuned to Radio Prague, those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Ruml likely to resign

Unconfirmed reports suggest that leader of the parliamentary right wing Freedom Union, Jan Ruml may resign at some point on Wednesday. According to the CTK News Agency, two independent sources have indicated that Ruml is likely to make the announcement at a press conference later in the day. Observers are already commenting that this is Ruml's reaction to an appeal by student activists, calling for a change of politicians in Prague.

Activists thank Havel

Former student activists who are calling for a change of leadership in Prague, thanked President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday evening for his interest in their cause. Following a two hour meeting and talks which focused on restoring common decency to Czech society, the activists who led student demonstrations in 1989, thanked Havel for his sincerity and understanding. The President, for his part, said he hoped that Friday's public meeting of signatories will take place in a calm and friendly atmosphere. The activists who first came forward with their appeal on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, have made it very clear that their call for change and greater integrity in Czech society is not aimed at the President.

Gross says David must go

Stanislav Gross, head of Social Democrat MP's, said on Tuesday, that Health Minister Ivan David is going to have to resign because the amendment to the law on Health Insurance still needs to be approved by the Senate. Following a meeting of Social Democrat MP's, Gross said the party had received signals from the senate that David's staying in his job, poses an obstacle to the passing of the crucial law. Gross said that should David's resignation become a condition for Senate's approving the law, then political stability will be a priority. This has been a critical point for Ivan David and in order to stop the Czech health care system spiraling into chaos, the Senate needs to agree to prolong the existing law.

This comes after Social Democrat MP's called on Premier Milos Zeman earlier in the month, not to pass responsibility to Parliament for David's future and to resolve the matter quickly. Ivan David has been under pressure from all sides of the political spectrum to resign.

Havel meets Lansky and Zeman

Czech President Vaclav Havel is set on Wednesday to become involved in the issue of outgoing cabinet ministers. First of all, Havel is to meet Deputy Premier Egon Lansky and most likely accept his resignation. Later the President will hold talks with Premier Milos Zeman. Zeman who wants to discuss the controversy surrounding his unpopular Health Minister, has not yet said whether or not the meeting will focus on David's eventual resignation. All the Premier has said is that he wants to discuss the issue of government personnel. Egon Lansky who says he is quitting his job for health reasons, has also been severely criticized, for not doing enough to prepare the Czech Republic for membership of the European Union.

ODS insisting on majority government

The Prague branch of the Civic Democratic party said on Tuesday that creating a majority government with a broader mandate is the only way out of the current political stalemate in Prague. Party representatives said the current Social Democrat government was failing in its work and called on the other two right wing parliamentary parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union to set aside personal differences in the interests of the country.

On Tuesday, Social democrat and Civic democrat MP's managed to block a suggestion during a session of parliament that discussions on next year's budget proposal begin on Wednesday. Christian democrat Miroslav kalousek said that the debate on the budget should not be postponed any longer. Observers say both the Civic democrats and the Social democrats want to the discussion to take place next week. During its Tuesday session, Parliament approved a law limiting and tightening conditions for residency in the Czech Republic for foreigners. The law, which still needs to be approved by President Vaclav Havel, will come into effect on the first of January 2000.

Czech Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich signed an agreement on Tuesday, with his Croatian counterpart Ivan Penic, aimed at clamping down on crime. The main result of the document, will be the exchange of people who have illegally crossed borders. According to the two ministers these are people who are belong to organized crime gangs and are guilty of stealing cars, selling or smuggling drugs and firearms.

The last 18 refugees left the Czech Republic on Tuesday for Kosovo. This is the eleventh group of refugees who have been repatriated. They were granted temporary asylum in the Czech Republic. This has enabled them to remain in the country without having to seek official refugee status.

A 'flu epidemic has broken out in Moravia. Almost 21 000 people are off work with temperatures and breathing difficulties. The number of afflicted people has risen since last week by 2000. Doctors say children and old people are most at risk and experts suggest that the figure is likely to increase over the next few weeks.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather:

A trough of low pressure moving towards the Czech Republic, means we are in for a cold, wintry day on Wednesday. Daytime temperatures will range from four to seven degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to –2 degrees. Skies will be overcast and cloudy, bringing the possibility of more snow in the mountains.

I'm Bill Bathurst and that's the end of the news.