News Wednesday, FEBRUARY 04th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: February 3, 1998 Written/read by: Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

Sedivy/EC

Czech Foreign Minister Jaroslav Sedivy visited Brussels on Tuesday. The main aim of the one-day visit was to explain to high EU and NATO officials the latest developments on the Czech political scene and to assure them that Czech foreign policy priorities have not changed.

In his meeting with European Commissioner for external relations Hans van den Broek, Sedivy said that Josef Tosovsky's government saw accession to the EU as an absolute priority and that the Czech Republic would be fully prepared to start the negotiations on March 31 as planned.

Minister Sedivy also met with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. Sedivy assured Solana that the Czech government continues efforts to have NATO admission ratified by this parliament. He said the current domestic crisis and the change in the cabinet do not mean that the Czech Republic's preparation for NATO entry, planned for next year, would slow down.

Clark in CR

The NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark, who visited the Czech Republic on Tuesday, said the Czech army could be a reinforcement for NATO.

General Clark told Czech defence minister Michal Lobkowicz that the Czech Republic could participate successfully in NATO because it had a realistic defence budget, and Czech troops were of a high standard. In Clark's opinion, the Czech army should now focus on interoperability with NATO forces.

In a meeting with Czech Senate chairman Petr Pithart, General Clark warned against any delays in the ratification process on the Czech side. He said postponing the decision would be viewed negatively by NATO.

After a meeting with Czech Army Chief of Staff Jiri Nekvasil, General Clark said NATO was interested in the Czech Army's further participation in the multinational peacekeeping forces in Bosnia Herzegovina. He explained NATO appreciated the work of Czech forces especially because they contributed significantly to calming down the situation around Priedor, which used to be an enclave of resistance against the Dayton peace accord.

Freedom Union/ODA/finance

The Freedom Union, a new party headed by former interior minister Jan Ruml, is interested in forming a pre-election coalition with the Civic Democratic Alliance and also sees some form of cooperation with the Christian Democrats necessary.

However, Mr. Ruml told journalists on Tuesday that the Civic Democratic Alliance must clarify its financial scandals first. He recalled that financial scandals were the reason why he and many others left the Civic Democratic Party. He concluded by saying that should the Civic Democratic Alliance's financial problems remain unclarified, his party would not cooperate with the Alliance.

Havel/Lobkowicz/Defence priorities

A quick ratification of the Czech Republic's membership of NATO would be a good signal for other countries, President Vaclav Havel said in a meeting with Defence Minister Michal Lobkowicz on Tuesday.

Havel's view is identical to the government position but different from that of the Socal Democrats who support a slower ratification joined with a referendum.

Agreement was also reached on the need to promote the role of the army in society and to explain its importance to the public, minister Lobkowicz said after the meeting and added that president Havel promised to personally participate in this campaign.

Honajzer/resignation

Deputy speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Jiri Honajzer, resigned from his post on Tuesday. Honajzer said his move was a goodwill gesture towards the Civic Democratic Party. Honajzer was one of the top Civic Democratic Party officials who joined the newly-established Freedom Union. The ODS asked him to vacate his seat, because under an agreement between political parties, the ODS had two vice-chairman in the legislature, but after both of them joined the Freedom Union, it had none.

Less people satisfied with living standard

According to the latest opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research, since December, the the number of people satisfied with their living standards fell by six percent, with 55 percent now describing it as good or fairly good and forty-three percent said their living standard was bad or fairly bad.

Organised crime/ministers

Czech Deputy Interior Minister Vojtech Sedlacek and Russian Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov discussed cooperation in fighting organised on Tuesday.

The Czech delegation said that the Czech Republic was interested in signing a readmission agreement and an inter-governmental agreement which would follow up a cooperation treaty between the two countries signed last April.

Russia showed interest in the closest possible cooperation, but did not show the same will to sign the documents, Sedlacek told CTK. He explained the this was due to a lengthy procedure with which the documents would have to be approved in the Russian parliament.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather forecast. We are expecting a partially cloudy day, with daytime temperatures below zero. On Thursday and Friday it should be much the same as on Wednesday, partially cloudy with temperatures around zero.

And that's the end of the news.