Sometimes 'sorry' is the hardest word, for Milos Zeman anyway...

PM Milos Zeman

Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman was fined 20,000 crowns on Monday for failing to apologise to a former party colleague. Mr Zeman was fined for contempt of court after failing to apologise for slandering former Social Democrat member Josef Wagner. The court ordered the prime minister to say sorry after he claimed Mr Wagner had tried to join the Communist Party after being expelled from the Social Democrats in 1997. But it's not the first time the prime minister has got into trouble for his sharp tongue. Rob Cameron reports.

Prime Minister Zeman's style might not be to everyone's taste, but he does have a way with words. Last December for instance, with his government facing defeat over the budget, he invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill... Well with the help of that and other speeches Mr Zeman eventually won his Battle of the Budget. But his sardonic manner and sharp wit has often got him into

PM Milos Zeman
trouble. With cigarette permanently dangling from one hand and microphone gripped tightly in the other, his deep baritone resonating around the room and his head lolling characteristically from side to side, the prime minister has a tendency to make wild allegations about his political rivals which have them scrambling for their lawyers.

His almost innate inability to say sorry has become legendary. It began in the early 1990s, when a court ordered him to apologise to a fellow MP for claiming he'd had difficulty finishing primary school. The MP, who later joined the police, says after seven years of waiting for an apology he's now given up.

The former Foreign Minister Josef Zieleniec chose a different path after the prime minister claimed he'd bribed journalists to improve his public image. Apparently sensing the futility of suing Mr Zeman for slander, Zieleniec applied public pressure, finally forcing something resembling an apology.

And just last month Mr Zeman was in court again, as the judge ordered him to apologise on television to political rival Miroslav Macek, after he labelled him a thief and an embezzler. The prime minister's apology did appear on television - puzzled viewers were confronted with eight seconds of silence and the text of Mr Zeman's apology in blue and white print. Hardly the personal touch.

Indeed there's no guarantee Mr Wagner will ever get his apology. Mr Zeman has made no indication that he's willing to apologise to his former colleague, and even denies receiving the fine itself. He says the court sent it to the wrong address.