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News Briefs

Schuster undergoes final operation in Austria
Rezeš returns to Slovakia to face criminal charges
US Air Force CD's recovered by Bratislava police
Ivor denies that key mafia witness changed testimony
Kukan condemns Milosevic and election fraud
Slovak marriages and births down, divorces up

Schuster undergoes final operation in Austria

President Rudolf Schuster underwent an operation on October 3 in Austria that his doctor Ernst Bodner said should be the last stemming from his life-threatening illness during the summer. The surgery took place at the University Hospital in Innsbruck and was necessary to close the artificial outlet from Schuster's colon, inserted in earlier operations, and to reconstruct his abdominal wall.
The clinic reported that no complications had arisen during the four and a half hour operation and that full recovery was expected. In two or three days Schuster should be able to drink on his own and in less than two weeks he should leave the hospital. He will then recover for one week at the F.X. Mayr Sanatorium in Igls, Austria. The president said before the operation that he expected to be back in his office by November 1.


Rezeš returns to Slovakia to face criminal charges

Alexander Rezeš, the former head of the eastern Slovak steel monolith VSŽ, returned to Slovakia to face charges in connection with the reconstruction he oversaw of an historic building in Banská Štiavnica.
In an interview with the private TV Markíza on October 2, Rezeš said that he came back despite doctors' warnings that his health was at risk. He said that he underwent heart surgery while abroad.
Rezeš asked President Rudolf Schuster for a pardon last month, a request which was denied. The former VSŽ boss has been abroad for a year and a half.


US Air Force CD's recovered by Bratislava police

Bratislava police detained Dušan D. on October 2, when he was found to possess CDs with sensitive information about the US Air Force. A so-far unknown perpetrator stole the CDs from a van used by US Air Force personnel on September 22. Police Corps Vice President Imrich Angyal said that all stolen items had already been returned to the US Embassy.
The van was a Fiat Ducato parked in the front of the McDonald's on Lamačská Road in Bratislava. Among the items stolen was a laptop computer with CDs containing information about the US Air Force. A security camera on the premises recorded the culprit, who had been following the van in what was probably a Mitsubishi Galant.


Ivor denies that key mafia witness changed testimony

Interior Ministry Chief Investigator Jaroslav Ivor denied recent media speculation that Alexander H., the main witness in the murder trial of infamous Slovak mafia boss Mikuláš Černak, had recanted his testimony. Based on Alexander H.'s evidence that he had witnessed Černak murder Polish bussinesman Grzegorz Szymanek, Černak was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Six of his associates were also sentenced to jail terms between two and 10 years.
Slovak media had reported that Alexander H. sent a letter to the Slovak Supreme Court two months ago changing his testimony. Ivor said that under criminal code procedures, revisions of testimony could only be made before an investigative body, not via mail.
Černak's case is currently being appealed and is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court later this month. Under the statute of limitations, Černak and two of his accociates could be freed if his case is not ruled on by December 20, as they will have been in prison for three years without a final conviction.


Kukan condemns Milosevic and election fraud

Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan, who is a personal envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the Balkans, said that the first round of presidential elections in Yugoslavia had been won by opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica, and that for him to participate in the run-off announced by incumbent Slobodan Milosevic would only serve to recognise election fraud.
Election observers and analysts said that Kostunica gained more than 50% of the vote, making a run-off unnecessary, but Milosevic and his asupporters said that only 48% had voted for the opposition leader and that a second round would be held.
At a September 29 press conference, Kukan also said that Milosevic may use violence to achieve victory in the elections. "Milosevic might behave emotionally and attempt to use all instruments to manipulate the election results," he said.


Slovak marriages and births down, divorces up

According to research done by the Statistics Office, since 1995 mariages and child births in Slovakia are down while divorces are up. The study shows that the death rate has stabilised, although when combined with the lower birth rate this means that Slovakia's population growth has slowed.
The number of children under 15 (19.8% of the population) is decreasing, as is the number of people over 60 (17.9%). There were 27,000 new marriages last year, down 154 from the previous year. The number represents 5 marriages per 1,000 people, while in 1950 there were 12 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants. The ages of citizens getting married is also rising; women now average 23.1 years at marriage and
men 25.6.
The number of divorces continues to increase. Last year 9,700 couples were divorced, signifying a 35.3% divorce rate, an increase of 1.4% over 1998. Some 70% of the divorced families have dependent children.


Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and TASR

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