News Wednesday, JANUARY 12th, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to the programme. I'm Pauline Newman, 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:

Prisons Unrest

A spokesman for the Czech Ministry of Justice said on Tuesday afternoon, that prison administrators are working closely with regional state attorneys in an attempt to put an end to the turmoil in Czech prisons. He said that the ministry is monitoring the situation in the prisons, but is not about to intervene directly, since this is more of an issue for state attorneys.

A spokesman for the Prison administration, said that the situation would appear to have calmed down, since officials seeking to quell the unrest began talks with the protesting prisoners. In the meantime, Justice Minister Otakar Motejl says he is considering setting up an independent commission to look into the grievances of the prisoners.

This comes as thousands of inmates in prisons throughout the Czech Republic, refused food, threw litter and burned mattresses on Tuesday as protests over poor living conditions spread through the country. The protests, which began with inmates at one prison on Monday, had spread to about a third of the 33 Czech prisons by Tuesday evening. The inmates have lashed out against overcrowding, poor food and stricter jail conditions imposed under a newly- enacted law. This has cut the number of packages prisoners can receive from friends and relatives and ordered convicts to pay compensation to victims and contribute to the cost of their prison stay. There will be more on this story later on in the programme.

CSSD ODS talks - Friday

The second round of cross party talks between the Prime Minister Milos Zeman's Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats lead by Vaclav Klaus, are to take place on Friday. The two parties are trying to deepen a power sharing deal known as the opposition agreement. There has been much speculation that Klaus' party will support the budget in return for a higher number of ministerial seats. Chairman of the Civic Democrat Deputies' Club Vlastimil Tlusty, endorsed this view on Tuesday, calling for change, saying he would like to see at least half the Social Democrat cabinet step down. Vaclav Klaus, has told journalists that several leading party members have been entrusted with drawing up the detailed six point plan, which was first forwarded last Friday at a meeting with the Social Democrats. He called this plan his party's way out of the political problems in the Czech Republic. One point deals with next year's state budget, another focuses on the electoral system and another on the Czech Republic's entry to the European Union. He refused to say any more.

Regional opposition Civic Democrat leaders said on Tuesday that the party leadership in Prague, should work at coming to an agreement with the ruling Social Democrat party which will guarantee political stability. They also said that it should be an agreement which will enable the party to push for more demands such as changes to the electoral system.

Verheugen Expansion despite Russia

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said on Tuesday, in Brussels, that the expansion of the Union will go ahead despite Russian objections. The EU is planning to admit three Baltic Republics and seven former communist bloc states, including the Czech Republic. Verheugen told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee that the political message is perfectly clear and that the Union will not wait for the views of Russia. Ties between Prague and Moscow have been strained in the past few months with Russia criticizing the Czech Republic for receiving the Chechen Foreign Minister late last year, and Czech politicians slamming Russia for violations of human rights in its Chechnya campaign.

CSSD Wins Lidovy Dum

A Constitutional court in Brno, admitted on Tuesday that the ruling Social democrat party does have a right to the ownership of the building which houses its party. The Court justified its ruling, saying that the current Social Democrat party is a shareholder in the local association called Cil, which in turn owns the building in the center of Prague known as Lidovy Dùm. This has been the subject of a bitter court battle over the last few years, which was started in the mid-nineties by former Finance minister Ivan Kocarnik. The Social Democrat predecessors to the current party owned the house, therefore according to the court, Milos Zeman's party does have a right to the building and to many assets which have been frozen.

No Replacement - Dobrovsky

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, said on Tuesday that he still hasn't found a replacement for Lubos Dobrovsky, who is stepping down from his post as Czech Ambassador to Russia. The Foreign Ministry has released a statement saying it had counted on Dobrovsky leaving in February. On Monday, he announced his decision to leave his job on the 31st Januray, saying he disagrees with the way the ministry is being run. Jan Kavan said he must put forward a suitable candidate, who needs to be approved by the cabinet, the Russian side and President Vaclav Havel.

Next Health Minister - Fiser?

An anonymous Social Democrat source said on Tuesday that a new Health Minister may be named on Thursday and suggested that the most likely candidate will be professor of the Brno University Medical Faculty Bohumil Fiser. Fiser told journalists later on that he has not received any official notification of his appointment, but added that if asked to take the job, he will not refuse. The new minister will be taking over from deputy Premier Vladimir Spidla who has been temporarily running the ministry since Ivan David was forced out of office.

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

A ridge of high pressure moving over central Europe, means that the weather in the Czech Republic over the next few days is set to get warmer. Although skies will remain overcast and cloudy, temperatures will rise to 3 degrees Celsius, during the day, dropping overnight to as low as –8 degrees Celsius. There is also a possibility of sleet or rain during Wednesday and Thursday.

I'm Pauline Newman and that's the end of the news.