News Wednesday, MAY 12th, 1999

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

Temelin's fate to be decided today

The Cabinet is due to reach a final decision on the fate of Temelin, the unfinished nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia at its Wednesday session . This crucial government session has been preceded by heated debate on the advantages, disadvantages and indeed dangers of completing the mammoth project launched by the communist regime back in 1987. Today it is not only way over budget but lagging behind schedule. Neighboring Austria has made numerous attempts to persuade the Czech authorities to abandon the project and most recently an EU resolution has expressed concern that Temelin could be a major nuclear safety hazard and urged the Czech government to consider alternative energy sources. In Cabinet environment minister Kuzvart leads the opposition to Temelin's completion, but the plant also has a number of strong advocates, foremost in industry minister Miroslav Gregr, and observers predict a fierce clash of wills over this issue. The most recent public opinion survey has shown that 59% Czechs support the completion of the power plant.

Czech and Greek diplomats working on peace initiative for Kosovo

The Czech Republic and Greece are reported to be working on a peace initiative for Kosovo . After a session of the Western European Union in Germany , Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan and Greek deputy foreign minister Jannos Kranidiotis confirmed that a joint peace initiative to settle the conflict in Kosovo would be unveiled in a matter of days. They told the media that there were still some details which needed to be finalized before the initiative could be put to leading international organizations and revealed that an outline of the plan had been unofficially disclosed to the participants of the WEU session and had met with general approval. Pressed to disclose details the Czech foreign minister told the ctk that in its basic principles the plan was in many ways similar to the G8 initiative, with a different accent on the role of the United Nations and a follow up plan for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia. The foreign minister stressed that the plan was not meant to rival the initiative of the Group of eight, and that it was up to the international community to accept as much as it wanted of the suggestions put forward.

Latvian president calls for NATO to accept all three Baltic states

Visiting Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis has warned of the dangers of separating the Baltic republics in the process of NATO enlargement. Speaking at a conference on the future of NATO at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, president Ulmanis said that accepting only one or only two of the Baltic republics in the next wave of expansion could have serious consequences for security in the region. He said the Baltic states were engaged in building a common defense strategy , which would doubtless simplify the process of their admission to the alliance , and expressed the hope that NATO would officially open membership talks with them after the 2002 summit in Washington. The Czech Republic has pledged to support Latvia's bid to join NATO. Today president Ulmanis is visiting southern Bohemia and meeting with the Czech defense minister.

Expats want restitution rights

Representatives of the Czech expat community in the United States have handed over to the Czech government a copy of a resolution passed by the US Congress last year which criticizes the fact that Czech émigrés have not been granted restitution rights to property confiscated by the communist regime. A representative of the International Movement for Free Czechoslovakia Jan Honner said Czech émigrés demanded an unconditional and immediate restitution of property confiscated by the totalitarian regime, adding that the United States was aware of the injustice being done to Czech expats. He reminded the Czech government that the right to private property was a basic human right. Other rights which Czech expats are still waiting to receive are the right to dual citizenship and the right to vote.

Havel visits refugee center

President Havel and the first lady on Tuesday visited the Zbysov refugee center for Kosovo Albanians on the outskirts of Brno. The presidential couple spoke to many of them through an interpreter , asking to hear about their plight, their immediate needs and future plans for them .Of the 115 refugees 42 are children . A social worker reported that although the refugees are in fairly good health physically , many of the grown ups are finding it very hard to deal with the loss of their home and country . Speaking to newsmen later, the president said a solution to the Kosovo conflict was now in sight and expressed the opinion that the bombing of Yugoslavia could be over in a matter of days.

Chief of regional police department shot dead

The chief of the Èeské Budejovice police department was shot dead on Tuesday night at a local bar. According to a police spokesman the man who fired several shots at Vladimir Ryklik has been detained and accused of murder. The police have not revealed the motive .

Prague Spring Music Festival

The Prague Spring Music Festival is due to open tonight with the Czech Philharmonic performing Bedrich Smetana's cycle of symphonic poems My Country under the baton of British conductor Sir Charles Mackerras. The next three weeks are packed with performances by 30 music ensembles and 80 musicians, among them the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Royal Orchestra Concertgebouw from Amsterdam and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as well as violin virtuosos Catherine Mackintosh, Cho-Lian Ling and Gidon Kremer , to name just a few.

Finally, a look at the weather:

Wednesday should bring overcast skies and possibly scattered showers with day temps between 15 and 19 degs C. Nighttime lows 12 to 8 degs C. We are told to expect more of the same on Thursday and Friday with identical day temps ie between 15 and 19 degs- forecast for both days.