Hello and welcome to the programme. I'm DL and we begin as usual with a look at the main newsstories this hour
NATO newcomers willing to contribute to peace-force
The Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, who are expected to become full NATO members on March 12th, have all offered to partake in any NATO led action needed to enforce peace in Kosovo. The Czech Republic has offered to send a field hospital and provide transport planes, Poland 300 soldiers and Hungary a 200 strong logistical force. The set up of such a NATO peacekeeping force is currently being debated in Brussels.
Civic Democratic Party leader Vaclav Klaus has called on the Freedom Union to help it end what he called the Social Democrat government's socialist experiment. Attending the national party congress of the right wing Freedom Union, along with other right wing party leaders, Klaus said his presence was no mere formality. "I have come to see, whether in the light of the country's present difficulties, we could let bygones be bygones and consider closer cooperation than merely voting alike in Parliament, Klaus said. He has already challenged the Christian Democrats to end months of resentment for the good of the country. Freedom Union leader Jan Ruml said he welcomed Klaus' message of goodwill and noted that although he saw no "radical changes in the immediate future" it had opened the door to dialogue. On Sunday morning Jan Ruml was re-elected party chairman.
Heightened security measures remain in effect in the Czech capital. Interior ministry police units are guarding the American, British, Greek, Turkish and Izraeli embassies in Prague around the clock, as well as the ambassadors' residences and cultural centres. The American and British embassies remain closed for the fourth day now, in connection with an unspecified terrorist threat. Asked whether the threat was Iraq-related Czech foreign minister Jan Kavan said he could neither rule out nor confirm this fact. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty which launched daily transmissions to Iran and Iraq last autumn has remained on the air, amidst heightened security.
Border police are reported to have detained a group of 53 illegal refugees from Kosovo who were abandoned by smugglers in their attempt to cross the border from neighbouring Slovakia. Left to fend for themselves in mountainous terrain and harsh weather conditions the group was on the point of exhaustion when border guards found them. There were 10 children, the youngest 10 months, and 17 women. After receiving medical attention, food and temporary shelter, they will be returned to the Slovak authorities. None have asked for asylum in this country, since their target state was reportedly Germany.
Finally a look at the weather: Sunday is expected to be partly cloudy with scattered rainshowers and day with temps hovering at just above zero. More snow is expected in the higher altitudes and drivers are warned not to set out for the mountains unless they are fully equipped to meet the harsh winter conditions. In many places there is still a several metres high blanket of snow. More snowshowers have been forecast for Monday and Tuesday. One good thing about it - conditions for winter sports have never been better.
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