Daily news summary News Thursday, MARCH 23rd, 2000

23-03-2000

Hello and welcome to Radio Prague. I am Libor Kubik and here's the news.

CZECH-CHECHEN-SIEGE

A group of about 25 Chechens are continuing their siege of the Prague office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They come from a refugee camp at Cerveny Ujezd.

Our correspondent says most of the intruders are women and children. The situation is reported as calm. The police said their motives are unclear at the moment. But other sources have indicated the refugees are fearing for their lives after one of them allegedly received a death threat by telephone.

CZECH-JEWISH-CEMETERY

The Czech cabinet has postponed till next week its decision on declaring the remnants of an old Jewish cemetery in Prague a national cultural monument.

An early decision on the sensitive issue has been sought by the Prague Jewish Community as well as by the insurance company which is building its new headquarters on the site of the medieval burial ground.

The Jewish community demand that, in line with religious rulings, the cemetery be preserved and declared a cultural memorial site. Sixty rabbis from Western Europe have recently attempted to bury the remains in a ceremony but they were not allowed to enter the site.

CZECH-YUGO-FLIGHTS

The Czech Republic on Wednesday joined other EU countries in lifting its air embargo against President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia.

Government spokesman Libor Roucek said the embargo on civilian flights was being suspended for six months in view of the plight suffered by civilians in rump Yugoslavia. That country's national flag carrier JAT is planning to resume flights to Prague on March 30.

But he said the ban on selling crude oil to Belgrade would remain in force, similarly as the ban on capital transfers and investment activities in Yugoslavia.

The EU council imposed sanctions on Yugoslavia in April last year.

CZECH-KOSOVO-ENVOY

United Nations' special human rights rapporteur on the former Yugoslavia, Czech diplomat Jiri Dienstbier, says the international community's policy on Kosovo is a total fiasco.

Speaking in Prague after a fact-finding trip to the rump Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovak foreign minister said on Wednesday that NATO's bombing campaign last year was counterproductive in that it had not solved existing problems but created new ones for the Balkans.

CZECH-POLICE-MEINKAMPF

The Czech police are about to launch a probe into the circumstances under which a translation of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" hit the bookstore shelves earlier this week.

A Prague state investigator has said the police will try to establish whether its publication was a criminal act or not.

The publication of an unannotated, unabridged Czech translation of "Mein Kampf" has unleashed a storm of protest from human rights activists, World War II resistance veterans and Jewish organisations. Most of them agree that by releasing Hitler's ideological manifesto without explanatory notes, the publishers have committed an illegal act.

CZECH-RUSSIA-RELATIONS

Czech Senator Michael Zantovsky says he cannot perceive any worsening in Prague's relations with Moscow even after the Czech Republic imposed a visa requirement on Russian citizens.

Mr. Zantovsky, chairman of the Senate's foreign relations committee, was reacting on Wednesday to Russian Ambassador Nikolai Ryabov's allegations earlier this week about Prague and Moscow heading for confrontation. The ambassador also complained about halting dialogue between both states and the continuing absence of a Czech envoy in Moscow.

Zantovsky said late last year the activity of Russian and other eastern intelligence agents was a high security risk for the Czech Republic.

CZECH-GDP-SLUMP

The Czech Republic's gross domestic product dropped by 0.2 percent last year and analysts here in Prague are sceptical of much chance for improvement.

The GDP data were released by the national statistic office and analysts were cited on Wednesday as saying that amid a structural crisis in the construction sector and the slow growth in real wages, there was scarcely any outlook for a quick recovery.

But Prime Minister Milos Zeman expressed optimism by estimating this year's GDP growth at up to two percent.

CZECH-SCHOOLS-DRUGS

One in two of a sample of 2,000 Czech schoolchildren aged between 12 and 15 have admitted they have experimented with drugs.

The children were asked earlier this year to write an essay on active drugs prevention. The project was sponsored by the civic association Parents Against Drugs.

A group activist said on Wednesday it was encouraging to find out that about the same number of children had refused drugs when offered to them. But very few pupils wrote they had never been in touch with addictive stuff. Most of the children stated they had been offered drugs by their schoolmates and friends.

CLOCKS-SUMMERTIME

And finally, don't forget that clocks go forward in the early hours of Sunday morning across the European continent as the switch to summer time takes place.

In most countries, including the Czech Republic, the change will occur at 0200 Central European Time, that is at 0100 UTC, when clocks will change to 0300.

The twice-yearly change in the clocks was introduced in Europe in 1973 at the time of the first oil crisis with the aim of saving energy.

CZECH-WEATHER

And we end as usual with a quick look at the weather.

After a foggy start and early morning lows around freezing point , Thursday promises to be a clear fine day with daytime temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius.

On Friday, the temperatures will be somewhat lower -- between 11 and 15 Celsius and dropping to between one and five degrees above zero. On Friday and Saturday, scattered showers are highly probable, ushering us into a fairly wet weekend.

I am Libor Kubik and that’s the news.

23-03-2000