News Wednesday, NOVEMBER 25th, 1998

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Welcome to Radio Prague. These are the top Czech stories this hour, now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-BRITAIN-DEFENCE

The visiting British Defence Secretary George Robertson said in Benesov on Tuesday he was convinced that the Czech military would be ready in time for NATO membership next year.

But he conceded that Czech budget constraints could pose problems and stressed the need to replace antiquated Soviet equipment, improve their English language skills and increase the number of professional soldiers.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are due to join NATO next April and Robertson on Tuesday visited the first East European brigade that will be assigned to the Brussels-based alliance.

CZECH-CENTRAL AMERICA-HURRICANE-AID

Foreign Minister Jan Kavan on Tuesday presented a five-million- crown cheque to diplomats from four Central American countries affected a few weeks ago by the devastating hurricane Mitch.

Kavan said his country was well aware of the crippling effect of the enormous loss of life and property on the people of El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Hurricane Mitch killed tens of thousands of people three weeks ago and left millions of people homeless.

The emergency aid comes from the reserve fund of the government budget.

CZECH-KYRGYZSTAN-RELATIONS

Czech President Vaclav Havel and his Kyrgyz counterpart Askar Akayev on Tuesday signed in Prague a declaration on revitalising relations between their two states, which were quite intensive especially in the 1930s.

Havel presented his guest with a cheque for 20,000 U.S. dollars aimed to help the former Soviet republic overcome the effects of the massive floods which swept parts of Central Asia a few weeks ago.

President Havel praised the democratic developments in today's Kyrgyzstan. He described it as a small, mountainous country which deserves a lot of respect for the spirit of tolerance and openness which was instilled there after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

CZECH-EU-APPEAL

The mixed parliamentary committee of the European Union and the Czech Republic on Tuesday appealed to both Prague and the EU to actively prevent trade disputes between them.

At a meeting in Brussels, the committee stressed the need to tackle all problems for the benefit of both parties and with Prague's gradual accession to the EU on mind.

The appeal comes in reaction to this year's apple war between this country and the EU and in the wake of growing concerns here over the imports of cheap pork from the Union.

CZECH-FARMERS-PROTEST

Angry farmers announced plans on Tuesday for a massive protest against the import of subsidised agricultural products from the EU.

Agrarian Chamber President Vaclav Havlicek told a farmers' convention in Vetrny Jenikov near Jihlava that the protest was scheduled for Friday but he did not elaborate.

The Czech news agency CTK, quoting reliable sources, reported on Tuesday that the protest will include the blocking of all main accesses to Prague and traffic slowdowns on all highways and border crossing points.

The sources said the protests should be on a very large scale so as to prevent the use of water cannon and other crowd control techniques by the police, which thwarted a recent protest, during which farmers planned to herd pigs on the busy D1 highway from Brno to Prague.

CZECH-AIDS

Czechs are largely ignorant of the risks posed by the disease AIDS. This according to a survey carried out by the polling agency GFK Praha.

The survey, released on Tuesday, shows that warnings about the deadly powers of the HIV virus have failed to bring about any substantial change in the sexual behaviour of more than half of the Czech population.

Only 10 percent of those polled said they had reduced the number of their sexual partners, and only one Czech in 10 favours the use of contraceptives.

But the study also shows that young people are more wary than the rest of the population and are more positively inclined to prefer safe sex.

CZECH-HEPATITIS-VACCINATION

Czech Health Minister Ivan David said on Tuesday he plans to introduce compulsory vaccination of children against type-B hepatitis.

This disease is transferred by blood and may acquire the character of small-scale epidemics among people who apply drugs intravenously.

Jana Foltinova from the Main Health Officer's department at the Ministry of Health said the vaccination programme could start in the middle of next year, if the ministry receives the needed funds to the tune 130 million crowns.

Minister David was reacting to a report in Tuesday's Mlada Fronta Dnes, which suggested that deaths caused by hepatitis B could be prevented by vaccination. David said the number of hepatitis B- related deaths was very small in the Czech Republic.

CZECH-WEATHER

Now quickly about the weather -- and Wednesday will be an overcast day with frequent fogs so a smog alert cannot be ruled out. Maximum daytime temperatures from four degrees Celsius below freezing to two degrees above.

An outlook for Thursday and Friday -- be prepared for low clouds and scattered snow showers or drizzling rain. Daytime temperatures around freezing point, nighttime lows two to six Celsius below zero.

And Finally, a quick look at some of the events that we expect will take place in the Czech Republic today.

The lower house of the Czech Parliament will continue debating the government draft of the state budget for next year.

The government will meet to discuss measures to curb the import of cheap pork from the European Union. A steep import duty might be a cure, according to Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl.

And the new chairman of Germany's Bundestag, Wolfgang Thiers, begins his first visit to the Czech Republic.

I am Libor Kubik and that's the end of the news.