News Wednesday, JUNE 24th, 1998

Radio Prague E-News date: June 24, 1998, 0900 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

Hello from Prague, I'm Libor Kubik and here's the news.


President Vaclav Havel decided on Tuesday that -- contrary to expectations -- the new Czech parliament would begin its work on July 7.

It had been expected that Havel would first wait for coalition talks to be completed following last weekend's general election.

On Monday evening, Havel asked the chairman of the winning Social Democrats, Milos Zeman, to form a government. Zeman wanted to begin talks on Wednesday with possible coalition partners.


Christian Democrat chairman Josef Lux informally met on Tuesday with the leader of the runner-up, conservative ODS party, former premier Vaclav Klaus. Czech Radio said that the possibility of a renewal of a conservative coalition was aired.

Klaus also met Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml. The meeting ended inconclusively, with Klaus saying it was an exchange of ideas, and that it had to be remembered that only Zeman had been entrusted with the task of forming a government.


The Social Democrat executive council denied reports on Tuesday that Mr Zeman would have to quit as party chairman if he was unable to form a cabinet.

A party spokesman said in an interview that Zeman's value for the party was inestimable.

A general election became necessary after Klaus's government fell last November amid a scandal over party finances and was replaced by an interim cabinet under Josef Tosovsky, the former head of the Czech National Bank.


Czech Finance Minister Ivan Pilip predicts a stable crown in the coming weeks.

He told an eastern/central European banking forum in the Austrian city of Linz on Tuesday that in his view, the Czech Republic will have a new government within the next few weeks.

Minister Pilip said the Czech economy is not directly threatened by the crisis in Russia because of the absence of close economic relations between the two countries.

He said Czech economic relations are diversified today, and the same process is underway in the field of raw-materials supplies where this country still depends largely on imports from Russia.


The head of a respected Czech polling agency said on Tuesday the country's political scene has yet to crystallise.

STEM's chief Jan Hartl told a press conference in Prague the scene before last weekend's elections was extremely volatile and vulnerable, with 29 percent of voters changing their preferences in the period from April to early June.

He said sociologists had not expected the election debacle of the far-right Republicans and had no ready explanation for this.


The lower house of Italy's parliament on Tuesday ratified NATO expansion in a crucial vote that bolstered Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left government.

The measure, on enlarging the alliance to include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, was approved by a large majority of the votes.


The future of Radio Prague's shortwave international broadcasting appears to be secure at least until the end of this year.

Original plans by the foreign ministry, which funds Radio Prague, called for suspending our station's French, German and Spanish services on shortwave by the end of June, leaving only Czech and English on the air.

Following protests from parliament and general public, the ministry now says the broadcasts will continue according to schedule.

The ministry's spokesman Rudolf Hykl said on Tuesday his office and Czech Radio had begun drafting amendments to the contract under which Radio Prague is operated by this public radio station.

Radio Prague began broadcasting in 1936 and is one of the oldest stations operating on the World Bands.


Finally, a look at the weather.

We expect a wet Wednesday with scattered showers and thunderstorms across the Czech Republic. Daytime highs between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius in the lowlands, and around 12 degrees on higher elevations.

An outlook for Thursday and Friday -- still rainy but temperatures will climb to between 23 and 27 degrees.

And that's the end of the news.