News Wednesday, NOVEMBER 18th, 1998

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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.

French PM arrives in Prague

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin arrives in Prague later today for a two-day official visit intended to reassure Prague that it remains on track for European Union membership. The french premier is to meet with his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman and president Havel. French officials said on Tuesday Jospin would affirm that Paris still considers Prague to be on the list of Eastern European states that will be admitted when the union finally expands. The Czech Social Democrat cabinet hopes that the visit will significantly contribute to the strengthening of both political and economic ties between the two countries.

Internet strike

More than 800 hundred internet servers in the Czech Republic are showing blank pages today. This is part of a protest action against the telecommunications monopoly SPT Telecom which is planning an increase in telephone rates. The protests also include a boycott of Telecom's services and a public demonstration outside its headquarters. The price hike is expected to negatively affect the use of the Internet in the Czech Republic and has already been criticized by both opposition politicians and government officials.

Czech Air flight diverted to Canada with problem

A regular Czech Airlines non-stop flight from New York to Prague was forced to land in the Canadian province of Newfoundland due to an unspecified technical problem. Czech airlines said in a statement that Flight OK53 departing from Newark, New Jersey late on Monday, had a "technical problem of a minor nature," forcing it to land at Gander, Newfoundland, for repairs. The aircraft, an Airbus with a seating capacity of 200 passengers, was originally scheduled to land in Prague at just before 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Czech Airlines did not disclose details about the passengers' status and said further information would be released on Wednesday.

Skinheads arrested

Police have arrested four neo-nazi skinheads suspected of beating up a British citizen in Prague's subway last Friday. Prague police reported that the four skinheads allegedly attacked the 36-year-old man, who was black, taunted him with racially abusive language, beat him up and kicked him out of the train at the next stop, leaving him lying on the platform. The man suffered slight injuries.

Economist conference begins

Also today, the Economist conference begins in Prague. It gives senior corporate executives, finance specialists and investors a chance to discuss the economic policies of the new Czech government with top state officials. Topics for discussion include for example the impact of European Union membership transition measures, monetary and fiscal policy, reform of the banking system and privatisation of state-sector activities and utilities.

Czech weather report

And finally, the weather. We are expecting a mostly cloudy day with scattered snow showers, afternoon highs should range from three degrees Celsius below zero to one above. Thursday and Friday should be much the same, cloudy or partially cloudy with snow showers, and temperatures just below zero.

And that's the end of the news.