News Wednesday, JUNE 16th, 1999

Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm Libor Kubik, first a look at the news headlines.


Czech parliamentarians have voted to raise the country's contribution to NATO forces in Kosovo to a battalion of up to 800 troops, instead of sending just a 150-man unit as proposed by the cabinet.

Most government MPs joined the three centre-right opposition parties which dominate the lower house to approve the resolution 122 to 25. The resolution must still be approved by the Senate.

But Foreign Minister Jan Kavan told the house that KFOR forces were now expecting only 150 Czech reconnaissance troops, meaning that more Czech peacekeepers could be sent in several months' time.

The government, which took a reserved position to NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia, said after widespread criticism that it was willing to boost Czech participation if parliament agreed to raise the state budget deficit to pay for the operation.

President Vaclav Havel and other politicians have said the Czech Republic, a new member of NATO, should offer to share more of the alliance's burden in the Kosovo action.

The parliament did not vote on any resolution on funding for the larger unit.


More than 80 percent of Czechs believe that their country should increase its aid to refugees from Kosovo. According to a research conducted by the Sofres-Factum polling agency, less than 11 percent of those questioned are against.

The poll results, released on Tuesday, indicate that over 90 percent of the Czechs support the sending of a field hospital to Albania, and almost 80 percent of those polled approve the project to build a Czech-manned refugee camp in Macedonia.

But only just over 60 percent of the respondents approve receiving refugees on Czech soil, and only about one half of those asked would accept the presence of refugees in their neighbourhood.


Coca-Cola's Czech subsidiary says problematic products from Belgium have never been imported into the Czech Republic. The Czech firm's public relations officer Zdenek Vilimek reacted on Tuesday to the outgoing Belgian government's decision to order Coca-Cola to withdraw all its products after more than 100 children fell ill.

The spokesman said Coca-Cola Czech Republic had thoroughly checked its production and bottling process. He said laboratory tests and independent foreign inspection had found Czech products to be a hundred percent safe.

According to Vilimek, the problem seems to be limited only to Belgium and Luxembourg, which has also banned sales of all Coca-Cola products.

The health warning in Belgium came as that country was still reeling from a dioxin-in-food crisis, which led to a range of meats, eggs and dairy products being pulled from supermarket shelves.


Slovakia's new President Rudolf Schuster said on Tuesday that he was going to pay a state visit to the Czech Republic early next month.

Schuster was sworn in in Bratislava as Slovakia's first directly elected head of state. He was elected late last month to succeed President Michal Kovac.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, who was among the official guests at the inauguration, said he would visit Slovakia soon. Regular meetings of the heads of both neighbouring states take place under an inter-state treaty.

Slovakia has been without a president since Michal Kovac stepped down in March last year because of wrangling over candidates and a subsequent change of election rules to allow a direct vote for the office.

Schuster, who won a run-off vote against former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, said he wanted to be the president of all Slovaks.


The Prague-based Slovak-Czech Club welcomes the improvement of relations between the two states which it said was enabled by the outcome of Slovakia's parliamentary elections earlier this year.

The organisation, which associates Slovak expatriates living in the Czech Republic, on Tuesday praised Prague for its moves to enable nationals from both countries to obtain dual citizenship.

The Club appealed to the Slovak authorities to make it possible for a quarter of million Slovaks, who have in the past relinquished their Slovak passports in order to gain Czech citizenship, to apply for dual citizenship rights as well.

It said both states should maintain their customs union regardless of which one will be the first to join the European Union.

The Club appealed to the public-service Czech Television to allow at least a minimum access to members of the Slovak community residing in this country.


Czech Interior Minister Vaclav Grulich and Britain's Ambassador David Broucher met in Prague on Tuesday to discuss measures to stem the exodus of Czech Gypsies or Romanies from the country.

The British envoy praised the steps taken by Prague and said London may not re-impose the visa requirement for Czechs travelling to Britain. In the past, hundreds of Czech Romas have sought asylum in Britain, citing racial discrimination in their country and frequent violent attacks by skinheads.

The Czech government has adopted a policy of stepped integration of the Roma minority, and set the year 2020 as a target date.


Tennis and Wimbledon defending champion Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic will play Shi- Ting Wang of Taiwan in the first round of the championships. It was announced in London on Tuesday.

Second seed Steffi Graf was drawn to play Ludmila Cervanova of Slovakia in the first round of the Wimbledon women's singles. Top seed Martina Hingis of Switzerland will play a qualifier and fourth-seeded Monica Seles will play Cristina Torrens Valero of Spain. Fellow American Lindsay Davenport, who is seeded third, will play Alexandra Fusai of France.


Yachting and a two-man Czech crew have announced plans for crossing the Atlantic on an ultra- light catamaran of a brand new design.

One of the two, Martin Duchac, has told the CTK news agency that the seven metres long and five metres wide craft, the Easy Sail, may be the lightest vessel to ever attempt to cross the Atlantic. It is fitted with a specially designed flying sail that will hover 40 metres above the catamaran.

The crossing attempt is scheduled for the end of the year.


Now for a look at the weather.

On Wednesday, we expect morning temperatures between nine and 13 degrees Celsius. The day will be rather cloudy with some scattered showers in Bohemia and daytime highs between 19 and 23 degrees.

On Thursday and Friday, a clod front will advance across the Czech Republic but daytime temperatures will be quite high from 20 to 25 degrees.

I'm Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.