News Saturday, FEBRUARY 28th, 1998

President Vaclav Havel has sworn in the new Environment Minister, Martin Bursik. Havel said the 38-year-old new minister's views on the environment were close to those of his own. For his part, Bursik said that he realised time was short but that he hoped to achieve something positive during his tenure. Initial reaction to Bursik's appointment from abroad has also been positive, with representatives of the Austrian Green Party saying it was a sign that the Czech Republic could be moving away from an energy policy based on nuclear power.

A family of three Czech Romanies has been granted political asylum by the United Kingdom. The decision was made by a tribunal at the end of January, but first reports have just come out. The British tribunal ruled that the family would be subject to further racial descrimination if they returned to the Czech Republic. This is the first case of Czech Romanies receiving asylum in Britain since a wave of asylum-seekers travelled there last year. A total of 563 Czech and Slovak Romanies have been sent back from Britain since October. The Romany family, two parents and their son, said racial persecution began in 1990 and got progressively worse. They said they were attacked by skinheads with baseball bats but Czech authorities took no action, even after they wrote to complain to President Havel.

Czech archeologists in Egypt have opened the basalt sarcophogus of a Pharaonic priest who was buried over 2,500 years ago. His tomb is the first one found that had not been earlier opened and robbed since British explorer Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen's final resting place in 1923. The coffin contained the body of Iufaa, a priest who also ran the Pharoah's palace, and was filled with pottery, jars and furniture. Iufaa lived at a time when Egypt was conquered by the Persians, and is believed to have collaborated with the occupiers. Archeologists said that although no jewellery was found, the richly-inscribed sarcophogus and limestone walls of the tomb were of great value for Egyptologists.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have scrapped a system under which they provided a set amount of stipendiums for university students from each others countries every year. The decision was announced after a meeting of the two countries' education ministers. The Czech Education Minister, Jan Sokol, said the system had failed because interest among Slovak students in Czech schools was high. On the other hand, Slovak universities attracted Czech students looking for an easy time of it, he added.

On the Czech-Slovak border, a group of 69 illegal immigrants have been caught - the largest single haul this year. The group included people from Kosovo, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was found going over the border away from an official crossing point. However, the criminal gang suspected of leading them was not detained. The illegal immigrants received fines and were taken to Slovakia.

And finally, the weather outlook for the weekend. Saturday will be overcast with temperatures between five and nine degrees. And on Sunday a cold front will bring rain or even snow, with temperatures dropping to between minus one and minus five - so if you go out, don't forget your scarf. And that's all for now from the newsroom.