News Wednesday, MARCH 22nd, 2000

Hello and a very warm welcome to the program. I'm Pauline Newman, first we start with a bulletin of news.

You are tuned to radio Prague. Those were the headlines, now let's take a look at the news in full:

Moscow dissatisfied with Czech - Russian ties

The Russian Ambassador to Prague has been critical of ties between Moscow and Prague. Nikolai Ryabov said on Tuesday that dialogue between the two countries is becoming confrontational and has virtually come to a stop. At a meeting with several Czech MP's on Tuesday evening, the Russian ambassador criticized the new laws governing residency for foreigners in the Czech Republic. He also said that Moscow is concerned that there is no Czech ambassador in Russia. The former ambassador to Moscow quit after a disagreement with the Czech Foreign Ministry earlier in the year. A spokesman for the Czech government was quick to react to Ryabov's words, on Tuesday, saying that bilateral ties are normal.

Kavan speaks about Chechnya conflict

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan said on Tuesday that the Czech Republic supports United Nations efforts to find a solution to the conflict in Chechnya. Kavan warned however, that the solution must respect the territorial sovereignty of the Russian Federation. Speaking at a congress of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Kavan said that although the Czech republic is against all forms of terrorism, the Czech government has opposed Russian methods of declaring war on Chechnya and civilians from the very onset of the conflict.

Clark praises Czech troops, calls for army improvements

Supreme Commander of NATO forces based in Europe, General Wesley Clark, met with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman on Tuesday. A spokesman later said the two men discussed the situation in Kosovo and NATO enlargement. General Clark said Albanian attitudes towards Serbs and Slobodan Milosevic's attitude towards KFOR troops posed the main threat in the Balkans. Earlier in the day, Clark praised the efforts of Czech troops stationed in Kosovo. Speaking in Prague at a press conference, he said that the Czech contingent is very small and called for a speedy end to the transformation of the Czech armed forces. He spoke of the need for stable financing and said a greater knowledge of the English language and modern technology was called for.

Hoffman indicted

Former high ranking communist official Karel Hoffman was indicted in Prague on Tuesday. He has been charged with high treason committed in the form of sabotage in connection with the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. A spokesman for the state attorney said Hoffman who was in charge of broadcasting and communications, gave the order not to mention the invasion in the media, the night Warsaw pact troops crossed the border in August 1968. The spokesman said Hoffman specifically ordered broadcasts to be held by parties which were in favour of working with Russia. Hoffman has been under investigation since 1995.

Mein Kampf published in Czech

A Czech publishing house has unleashed a storm of controversy by publishing 10 000 copies of an unedited translation of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf". While the director of the Publishing house has said that the book is a historical document, human rights groups and the Union of Freedom Fighters which fought against Nazism during the war, have openly condemned it. Lawyers say that unless it can be proved that the book has been published with a view to spreading racial hatred, charges cannot be pressed. "Mein Kampf" which translates as "My Struggle" was written by Adolf Hitler and outlines his policies on racial purity. It served as a bible for many of his supporters when he was in power.

Brezina to be appointed on Thursday

Czech President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Milos Zeman have agreed that Karel Brezina will be appointed Minister without Portfolio on Thursday. The ceremony will take place at Havel's country retreat of Lany outside Prague where he is currently recovering following a week in hospital with bronchitis. A spokesman said current Minister without Portfolio Jaroslav Basta will be officially dismissed the same day. This is part of the long awaited cabinet reshuffle which the opposition Civic Democrats have been demanding in return for supporting the budget.

Trade Unions call for pay rise

Four major Trade Unions from the Czech Healthcare sector, agreed on Tuesday to joint demands for a 25% pay rise for doctors and nurses. Observers say the four unions cover some 80 000 employees. A senior Trade Union official told reporters on Tuesday that the demands will cost approximately three billion Czech Crowns. He added that this money could come from reorganizing finances within healthcare and would not burden the state budget. Trade Union representatives met with Health Minister Bohumil Fiser on Tuesday. He told them that a sudden pay rise would be impossible and proposed the introduction of committees which would monitor finances within the healthcare sector.

Minorities await government help

The Czech government's Council for Human Rights, said on Tuesday that it intends to introduce training projects and legislation to deal with the ongoing problem of racial intolerance and xenophobia. This comes in reaction to a report released by the European Commission which stated that although conditions for minorities living in the Czech Republic are improving, the Roma community still faces discrimination regarding education and employment. A spokesman for the Czech governmental Human Rights Council said on Tuesday, that long term plans included an anti racist campaign aimed mostly at young people, teachers and police.

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

It's set to get a little warmer on Wednesday, as a ridge of high pressure moves over the Czech Republic. Skies will be a little cloudy with patches of sunshine breaking through towards the afternoon. Daytime temperatures are expected to reach 14 degrees Celsius, dropping overnight to minus two.

That's the end of the news.