News Wednesday, JULY 07th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. We begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories:

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

Premier attacks journalists

Premier Milos Zeman has attacked journalists in the Czech Republic, describing the vast majority of them as "amateurs and liars". In an interview for Czech Radio on Tuesday Zeman said that the intellectual level of journalists in this country was that of special school graduates, referring to schools for mentally retarded children. The head of government explained that political and economic commentators , in the dailies, radio and television were the worst of the lot, and that the entire Cabinet had problems communicating with them. Zeman added that he felt no great desire to improve his media image, since the government was not there for the media, but to serve the public. This is the premier's second attack on the press in as many weeks. Last week the head of government accused journalists of taking bribes, without being able to produce any evidence.

Appeal for no nuclear exports to Iran

Jiri Payne, vice-chairman of Parliament's foreign affairs committee has warned against exporting nuclear technology to Iran. In an open letter to trade and industry minister Miroslav Gregr, Payne said that even seemingly harmless components for Iran's nuclear power plants and the know how of Czech engineers could have serious consequences for peace and stability in the Middle East and he urged the industry minister to block potential exports. The vice- chairman's appeal follows rumors that not only is a business deal in the pipeline, but that the industry minister himself approves of it and is planning to drum up support for it in Cabinet.

Slovak president visits Czech Republic

Slovak president Rudolf Schuster is paying a one-day state visit to the Czech Republic. It is his first foreign visit since taking office and according to Slovak sources it is primarily intended to bring about an improvement in bilateral relations. The Slovak president's agenda includes meetings with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel, premier Milos Zeman and the speakers of the Lower House and Senate, Vaclav Klaus and Libuse Benesova.

Finland says: enough

Finland has introduced visa regulations for Slovak citizens in the wake of a Romany exodus to Helsinki. After Canada and Great Britain, Helsinki had become a popular destination with Romanies seeking a better life elsewhere and they have been leaving by the dozen-a-day from Prague and Budapest. According to the ctk newsagency over a thousand of them have now asked for political asylum in Finland. Although a few Czech and Hungarian nationals are reported to be among the asylum seekers the vast majority of these Roma families are from Slovakia. They claim that their living conditions have grown even worse under the present right-wing government and that they are discriminated against on a daily basis. The Helsinki authorities allegedly question the truth of this claim and have expressed the view that this exodus is triggered by economic reasons rather than discrimination or persecution. The majority of the Romany applicants for asylum will thus most likely be turned back.

Halestorms and gale-force winds cause material damage

A clean up operation is underway after hale storms and gale force winds battered the southern parts of the Czech Republic on Tuesday evening. The hail stones raining down on some areas were reportedly the size of tennis balls, killing smaller farm animals, smashing windows, damaging roofs and cars parked out in the open. A vast number of trees were reportedly uprooted in the windstorm and firemen and emergency crews worked late into the night to clear roads. The overall damage has yet to be assessed.

Finally a look at the weather

A belt of rain coming from the north should bring a significant drop in day temps to between 18 and 22 degs. We are told to expect partly cloudy skies and rain in the course of the next two to three days. Nighttime lows between 15 and 11 degs.