News Wednesday, OCTOBER 28th, 1998

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Written/read by: David Vaughan

Those were the headlines, and now the news in more detail.

Viennese Mayor Denies Secret Police Links

The former mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, has strongly denied allegations that he was an agent for the Czechoslovak secret police during the 1960s. Because of the claims President Havel has cancelled plans to present him with the highest Czech honour awarded to foreigners, the Order of the White Lion. Mr Zilk told Austrian Radio that he found the claims ridiculous, and that any documents suggesting he was a spy must be forgeries. However Mr Havel's spokesman has said the President has no reason to doubt the authenticity of the claims, made by Czech Senator Vaclav Benda. But the head of the National Security Bureau, Tomas Kadlec, has said that his office has never seen any documents pointing to the former Vienna mayor's guilt and he added that he has no idea as to the source of Senator Benda's evidence. The latest row casts a shadow over Czech-Austrian relations, as Mr Zilk was for many years one of the most prominent and charismatic politicians in Austria.

Military Honours for Dead Pilots

The remains of three Czech military personnel are being flown back to Prague, after the three men died in a helicopter accident on Sunday while they were serving in the Czech SFOR contingent in Bosnia. An airforce spokesman said that their bodies will be received with full military honours, in the presence of the airforce Chief of Staff, Ladislav Klima. The cause of the accident is under investigation, but strong winds at the time are thought to have been a factor.

Havel Less Popular

President Havel's poularity appears to have dipped to its lowest level since 1992. In an opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Public Opinion Research only fifty-eight percent of respondants said that they had confidence in Mr Havel, compared with significantly higher figures in recent years. However, the President is not alone. The poll suggests that confidence has declined in all the main constitutional bodies, with the upper house of parliament, the Senate seeing the most dramatic fall in popularity.

Romanian Minister and NATO

The Romanian deputy Prime Minister Victor Babiuc has been given assurances that the Czech Republic wholeheartedly supports NATO expansion to include Romania. The assurances came from the Czech deputy Foreign Minister, Otto Pick, after talks with Mr Babiuc in Prague. NATO has promised Romania that - along with Slovenia - it will be a front runner for the next round of expansion, following on from the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.

Budget Fate Still Uncertain

The fate of the Czech government's revised budget proposal for the coming year still remains far from certain. One opposition deputy for the right of centre Civic Democrats of former Prime Minister Klaus, said on Tuesday that his party's support for the budget was out of the question. The Civic Democrats, he said, had called on the government to reduce the proposed budget deficit, but instead they have increased it by a further four billion crowns. Another right-of-centre party, the Freedom Union, has also expressed doubts, but has stopped short of condemning the budget outright. The centrist Christian Democrats have also shown a degree of reserve, saying that as yet no member of the party has seen full text of the budget. So far only the Communists have said that they will join in support of the Social Democrat government, but the government will need broader support in order to get the budget through parliament.

Anniversary

Commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia on Wednesday have begun with a ceremony to lay wreathes at the memorial in Prague to the Czechoslovak Legions. The Legions fought alongside the allies in the First World War, and helped contribute to the eventual foundation of the independent Czechoslovak state. Further events are to take place throughout the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

First Snow

Residents of parts of North Moravia had their first taste of winter on Monday night, with a light dusting of snow. Although the snow melted quickly in most areas, some roads in the Jesenik Mountains are still covered, and road clearing teams are at work.

Weather

And staying with the weather, Wednesday looks set to be a wet day, with some more snow showers in the hills, and temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees Celsius. And we can expect more showery autumnal weather on Thursday and Friday.