Press Review

All the Czech newspapers today feature photos from the weekend's dramatic developments in Belgrade, where a special police squadron armed to the teeth finally succeeded in detaining the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic. The papers are full of reactions from world leaders to Mr Milosevic's arrest.

But turning to domestic stories, MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on a rather surprising plan by the Czech government. Prague, says the paper, plans to force Russia to pay back its 4-billion dollar debt to the Czech Republic by selling the debt to a private debt-collecting company.

The paper claims that the company - Falkon Capital - has close contacts with foreign crime bosses. It also says that it was Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik and Foreign Minister Jan Kavan who decided to sell the Russian debt to Falkon Capital.

A Czech delegation headed by Mr Mertlik is currently in Moscow to discuss the deal. But the Czech Interior Ministry has warned that Falkon Capital maintains tight links with foreign intelligence services and the mafia. But MLADA FRONTA DNES agrees that if the debt was paid back, it would provide the Czech Republic with a substantial financial windfall.

PRAVO says that the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia may cost another billion crowns. Everybody is nervous, writes the paper, because Temelin's budget was agreed politically, but unexpected minor problems are eating up more and more money.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Miroslav Gregr, has been pushing for the final sum to stay at 98.6 billion Czech crowns, because he gave personal guarantees that the sum would not be exceeded.

Officials from CEZ, the state-owned energy utility which owns and operates Temelin, is trying to play down the significance of all recent problems. But a Temelin technician who asked not to be named told the paper that technical glitches should have been expected, and that we can only be glad that so far no defects have occurred in the plant's primary - nuclear - circuit.

"Abusive Posters Welcome Rushdie To Prague" reads a headline in today's LIDOVE NOVINY. The paper writes that Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie, still living in fear of the fatwa issued by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, will be in Prague this week to participate in the 11th International Writers' Festival. But, the paper notes, he will not only be welcomed by enthusiastic fans.

Posters have sprung up in Prague featuring a photo of Rushdie accompanied by a short text, describing the writer as "a parasite of the freedom of speech" and "a moral deviant." Salman Rushdie's stay in Prague will be accompanied by strict protection measures, because an Iranian organisation called the Foundation of the 15th Khordad is offering 2.8 million dollars for Rushdie's assassination, concludes LIDOVE NOVINY.

And finally, ZEMSKE NOVINY reports on Sunday's televised political debate, when two Czech politicians completely forgot it was April Fools' Day, and fell for the presenter's story that Prime Minister Milos Zeman had decided to establish a foundation for the education of journalists. Mr Zeman is well known for his aversion towards Czech journalists and the media in general

But Mr Zeman's party colleague, Regional Development Minister Petr Lachnit, failed to see the joke, saying he could well imagine such an institution.