News Wednesday, MARCH 25th, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News Date: March 25, 1998 Written/read by: Vladimir Tax

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I'm Vladimir Tax and here's the news. First the headlines.

These are the main points and now the news in more detail.

"Libyan hotels"

The U.S. Embassy in Prague issued a statement on Monday in which it informed US citizens that the US government considered a number of hotels in the Czech Republic, including the Forum and the Panorama in Prague as owned by the Libyan government. It warned that any financial transactions with these hotels, including payments for lodging and meals were prohibited by the Libyian Sanctions Regulations and that violating this prohibition may be subject to criminal and civil penalties under U.S. law.

An allegedly Libyan-owned company, the Corinthia Group based in Malta, obtained the biggest chain of Czech hotels about a month ago.

The Czech Foreign ministry said the Czech Republic was aware of all its international commitments ensuing from the U.N. Security Council's resolutions, and that these were included in the Czech legal order. However, the ministry official Rudolf Hykl denied that Czech law was broken by the sale.

Vodicka leaves FU

Former cabinet minister and MP Jindrich Vodicka has left the Freedom Union which he helped to establish. He specified the reasons in a letter to party chairman Jan Ruml.

Vodicka criticized the party's programme, saying it was very similar to those of other right-wing parties. He was also disappointed by the fact that party leader Jan Ruml refused to run for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in the next elections. Another reason was the alleged will of some of Freedom Union representatives to form a coalition with the Social Democrats after the elections.

The former labour and social affairs minister also had a different idea of the role of the newly-established Freedom Union and favoured closer integration of right-wing parties.

Party leader Jan Ruml refused the criticism, saying Vodicka had a chance to participate in creating the programme but did not. He also ruled out any possibility of allying with the Social Democrats.

Czech/Austria/nuclear

The Austrian government on Tuesday expressed concern about the planned enlargement of a nuclear waste storage facility in the Czech town of Dukovany, near the Czech-Austrian border.

Austrian environment minister Martin Bartenstein warned that Vienna will include the issue in EU enlargement talks if the Czech Republic does not provide more detailed information.

The Austrian cabinet based its decision on a study worked out by Vienna University, according to which the Czech project does not take into account special circumstances and safety risks such as a plane crash or a terrorist attack.

Czech Environment Minister Martin Bursik said he was willing to talk to Bartenstein but that he did not expect the issue to be raised in connection with the Czech Republic's EU membership.

Czech-Croat army cooperation

Czech and Croat deputy defence ministers on Tuesday signed an agreement on military cooperation. The Czech official, Jaromir Novotny, said the Czech Republic wants to show that by its accession to NATO it will not refrain from cooperation with other countries. He said the Czech Republic can offer Croatia experience from peace-keeping missions and the process of accession to NATO. Novotny added that the Czech Republic had already signed such agreements with all neighbouring countries and NATO members.

Havel welcomes court ruling in case of Sudanese student murder

President Vaclav Havel on Tuesday welcomed the court ruling in the case of last year's murder of a Sudanese student by a neo-nazi skinhead.

He said he welcomed the fact that the court passed a quick and tough sentences for the murder, and that it had the courage, which is often a problem, to say the murder was racially motivated, the president said.

The Prague Municipal Court sentenced 19-year-old Petr Zbornik on Monday to fourteen and a half years in prison for the racially-motivated murder of the Sudanese student last November.

Banks/privatisation

Privatisation is the only way for Czech banks to survive sharp competition after the introduction of the European Monetary Union, chief economist of Komercni banka, Kamil Janacek, told a banking and financial forum on Tuesday. He said strategic partners must bring Czech banks not only capital but also know-how and easier access to European and world markets.

The state still holds stakes in three large Czech banks. Privatisation of these banks is currently being prepared, but the result will depend on a decision by the cabinet that will be appointed after the early elections in June.

Securities/Jezek/trading

One of the main priorities of the recently established state Commission for Securities will be a complete ban on trading outside the regular stock market, member of the commission presidium Tomas Jezek announced on Tuesday. He said the commission will also revise licences of subjects entitled to trade on the stock exchange.

The commission for securities was established late last year, and its goal is to make the Czech capital market more transparent.

Czech weather report

And finally, a quick look at the weather. On Wednesday, a high- pressure area will be moving across Central Europe, bringing mostly sunny weather. Highest daytime temperatures should range from three to seven degrees Celsius.

And that's the end of the news.