News Wednesday, NOVEMBER 10th, 1999

Zeman asks Lauder to apologise Czech Premier Milos Zeman revealed to journalists on Tuesday night in New York, that he unexpectedly met Ronald Lauder at a reception in Washington on Monday. He said that although they exchanged a few words, Zeman refused to have anything more to do with Lauder until he apologised for his statements on the Czech Republic. This comes after Lauder placed large notices in American papers warning off potential investors in the Czech Republic the very day that Zeman arrived for a state visit. Lauder's company CME is currently engaged in a row over the Czech private television station NOVA. Shortly after his arrival, Zeman said Lauder's advertisement was unfair and contained false and misleading information.

Verhegen arrives in CR European Union Enlargemnent Commissioner Gunter Verheugen is arriving in Prague on Wednesday for a two day visit. He is set to hold talks with representatives of the Czech government and Romany activists. One of his main aims is to see what can be done about the controversial Maticni street wall, which went up last month in a northern Czech town, and separates Romanies from their neighbours. Regional Councillors in Usti nad Labem promised the new government negotiator on Tuesday, that the conflict surrounding the wall in the town, will be resolved within a month. Mayor Pavel Tosovsky praised the talks saying they had gone very well and added that a proposal aimed at putting at end to the problem will be put forward within the next four weeks. The wall has caused plenty of controversy over the last few months and has seen the Prague Government criticized both at home and abroad for its inability to deal with the situation. Czech Romanies have been camping outside the wall in protest since last Thursday.

ODS rejects 4 coalition proposal The Civic democrats, the main opposition party, has turned down an offer from leaders of the so-called four coalition parties. They are calling for a vote of no confidence in the present government. In a letter to Premier Milos Zeman and head of the main opposition Civic democratic party Vaclav Klaus, the coalition stated on Tuesday, that if the Civic democratic party signs a document calling for the vote of no-confidence, the group is prepared to negotiate with Klaus on creating a new government. In the letter, the coalition expressed its conviction that a joint government with the Civic democratic party, is the only realistic solution to the current political stalemate in Prague. The coalition said that this government would consider economic growth, the fight against unemployment and European Union membership as top priorities. In response to the letter, Vaclav Klaus told journalists on Tuesday evening, that if the four coalition still insists that his party sign their petition calling for the vote, then he must turn the group down again. Klaus believes that a coalition with the Freedom Union and the Christian democrats would be very fragile. He continues in the meantime, to call for a grand coalition of all parties with the exception of the communists.

Vote on law postponed The Social democrat party on Tuesday, forced through a ruling in Parliament, voting to postpone the long awaited controversial debate on the existing law on health Insurance. The party along with the support of the communists, frustrated plans among right wing parties to discuss the issue on Tuesday. The debate was already postponed last week, in order to give Premier Milos Zeman time to sort out problems at the Health Ministry and calls for the resignation of its minister Ivan David. Zeman did not make any significant moves, however and is currently in America. The Social democrats, said on Tuesday that they again delayed the debate, preferring to wait until their chief is in Prague and able to make a statement on the issue. Right wing opposition parties, are threatening that they will not support the amendment to the law, due for renewal by the end of this year, unless Health minister Ivan David resigns. If the law is not passed, health Insurance will be free and observers say with no-one paying for this service, the health care sector will quickly collapse from lack of funding. Health minister Ivan David has been under increasing pressure to resign in recent weeks both from right wing MP's and leading representatives from the health care sector. On Tuesday, the Union of Doctors and Social workers also called for his resignation. The Union said that unless David steps down from office immediately, it intends to approach Premier Milos Zeman with its demand.

Lux's condition worsens Former chairman of the Christian democrats, Josef Lux who recently underwent a bone marrow transplant in Seattle, America is said to be in a critical condition. The operation which took place at the end of September, went smoothly and saw Josef Lux is high spirits with hopes of overcoming his leukemia. Doctors now say that as a result of a lung infection, his state of health is very serious.

No Comment from Kremlin Moscow has declined to comment on recent allegations in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, that half the 63 Russian Diplomats based in the Czech Republic belong to a vast spy network. The author of the article claims to have read a top secret Czech government report supporting this theory. The Russian Foreign Ministry is distancing itself from the affair, saying it has no reason to comment. Although the Czech Foreign Ministry says it has never heard of such a list and maintains that there are 47 Russian Diplomats in the country and not 63, there has been much concern in Prague among politicians. The Civic democratic Alliance slammed the government on Tuesday for not doing more to maintain security in the Czech Republic. Deputy Chairman and Senator Michal Zantovsky, said the party could not understand why the government was not trying to reduce the number of Russian diplomats in Prague. Zantovsky said Prague should quickly resolve the issue of introducing visa requirements for former states of the soviet union and pulling Czech policies on the issue into line with those of the European Union.

And we end as usual with a brief look at the weather: We are in for a cold, wet start to the day with the possibility of more snow in the mountains. Temperatures during the day will range from 8 to 10 degrees Celsius, with cloudy, overcast skies, dropping overnight to 2 degrees Celsius.