Press Review

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Many of today's papers carry the story of the mysterious death of Jan Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's postwar foreign minister. "It was murder," writes Lidove noviny, quoting a forensic expert. The paper also features an interview with Jan Masaryk's secretary, Antonin Sum, who maintains Masaryk committed suicide.

Many of today's papers carry the story of the mysterious death of Jan Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's postwar foreign minister. "It was murder," writes Lidove noviny, quoting a forensic expert. The paper also features an interview with Jan Masaryk's secretary, Antonin Sum, who maintains Masaryk committed suicide.

The popular young Interior Minister Stanislav Gross is facing yet another controversy, Mlada fronta Dnes writes. Beside having to explain his wife's business activities, Mr Gross is accused of inviting 40 policemen to the Lower House on Wednesday, during discussion of a bill proposing higher salaries for the police. While Mr Gross was trying to push through the changes, the 40 policemen headed by the Police President Jiri Kolar himself were watching quietly from the balcony.

The opposition are furious, and are calling for Mr Kolar's resignation. They say the whole situation looked like a coup d'etat or security measures meant to prevent a terrorist attack. The ruling Social Democrats say any citizen, including policemen, are free to come and watch public sessions in the Parliament. But the policemen came to the Lower House during working hours and some of them didn't leave their guns at reception, breaking House rules. Stanislav Gross denies accusations that he organised the visit, but later he admitted he had known the police were coming, Mlada fronta Dnes says.

While the presence of the police officers caused controversy in the Parliament, another visitor was welcomed unanimously by all MPs, the daily Pravo reports. The Salt Lake City Olympic medallist, Ales Valenta might have been visiting the Lower House unofficially, but he received a long standing ovation from the MPs once they noticed him. Pravo carries a photo of a surprised and smiling Valenta sitting in the Lower House balcony.

Pravo reports on yesterday's controversial comments by the EU commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen on the issue of property restitution in the Czech Republic, comments he later claimed were misinterpreted. "The Czech government is not going to propose any legislation changes and I don't know where Mr Verheugen got the idea from," Pravo quotes the Czech Prime Minister Zeman as saying. According to the spokesman for the European Commission, Jean- Christophe Filori, commissioner Verheugen was referring not to the controversial Benes Decrees but to a 1991 law on restitution of property.

Staying with the Benes Decrees, lately heavily criticised by Austrians, Bavarians and Hungarians, Lidove noviny quotes philosopher Miloslav Bednar who dubbed Vienna, Munich and Budapest an "axis of evil" at the recent meeting of the Czech-German Discussion Forum in Berlin. Mr Bednar, who works in the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences, is a member of the opposition Civic Democratic Party and spoke on behalf of the party at the meeting.

After his words were sharply criticised by German representatives and the majority of the Czech delegation at the meeting, Mr Bednar apologised. The Civic Democrats, however, refuse to distance themselves from his remarks. They say that such strong words may provoke a reaction which may lead to some kind of solution to the controversy over the Benes Decrees, Lidove noviny writes.

Lidove noviny reports on a new national award called "Czech Head" for the best discovery or invention by a Czech scientist or technician. The 100,000-crown prize is part of a project to support the Czech scientific community. The president of the organising committee, writer Arnost Lustig, told Lidove noviny that there were awards for artists, models and beauty queens, but no prestigious prizes for scientists who are vital for the future of the country.