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Press digest

The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press:

The Times quotes the prime minister saying the election campaign should wait until after Christmas. It also says an upgrade of the white taxi service has 'run out of power'.

The Malta Independent says the President's Charity Fun Run attracted a record crowd yesterday.

In-Nazzjon quotes the prime minister saying parents can have peace of mind for their children only by choosing the PN.

l-orizzont leads with Joseph Muscat's promise to give Budget benefits in arrears from January 1 if the Budget is not approved by the House.

The overseas press

Israel has announced it would withhold $120 million in taxes and customs collected for the Palestinian Authority to pay debts to Israeli companies. The Jerusalem Post reports the Israeli Cabinet said it would not negotiate on the basis of the General Assembly's recognition of a state of Palestine in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Cabinet also approved a plan to build 3,000 new homes for Jews in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel announced the plans in response to the UN vote which upgraded the Palestinian status to that of a non-member observer state.

There has been world condemnation of Israel's plans to expand Jewish settlements. The New York Times quotes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warning that the Israeli plans would deliver "an almost fatal blow" to chances of a peace deal with the Palestinians. Reuters reports EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Sunday that all settlement construction was illegal under international law and constituted an obstacle to peace. The United States said the plan was counterproductive to any resumption of direct peace talks.

Al Ayyam says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned home to a hero's welcome after winning a resounding endorsement for Palestinian independence at the United Nations. Some 5,000 people thronged a square outside Abbas' government headquarters in the West Bank. Abbas told the cheering crowd that "we now have a state".

Meanwhile, France 24 reports that dozens of professional footballers, including a number of top players from the English, French, Italian and Spanish top divisions, have written to UEFA in protest at a decision to award Israel the under-21 European championships next June. The players said that allowing Israel to host the competition would condone its recent offensive against Gaza-based militants. They y expressed solidarity with Gazans who were "living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom".

Japanese rescue crews have now confirmed that at least nine people died when a highway tunnel collapsed west of Tokyo on Sunday. Asahi Shimbun says a 50-metre section of the tunnel's concrete ceiling gave way, crushing at least two vehicles. Witnesses spoke of terrifying scenes as a van burst into flames, sending out clouds of blinding, acrid smoke.

RTV Slovenija announces that former Prime Minister Borut Pahor has won the Slovenian presidential election with 66.7 per cent of the vote. Official results show incumbent President Danilo Turk won 33.3 per cent at yesterday's run-off balloting. The vote was held amid growing discontent with the government's anti-austerity measures and only two days after protests against those measures and alleged widespread corruption erupted in clashes.

Ansa reports that Italy's centre-left has chosen 61-year-old Pier Luigi Bersani over his 37-year-old rival, Matteo Renzi, to run against a rightwing contender for prime minister in next year's general election. Bersani garnered more than 60 per cent of the vote.

VOA says suspected Islamic militants have killed at least 10 Christians in a murderous rampage in a village in northern Nigeria. Residents of Chibok in Borno state say the killers slit the throats of their victims and burned down their homes. Nigerian officials suspect it was the work of the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, responsible for more than 3,000 deaths since 2009 as it tries to set up a conservative Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The name Boko Haram means "Western education is a sin" in the Hausa language.

Al Ahram reports Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has delayed its work indefinitely after supporters of President Mohammed Morsi protested outside its headquarters. The court said it would not convene until its judges could operate without "psychological and material pressure".

El Diario says the leaders of Chile and Peru have urged their citizens to keep calm and avoid "exacerbated nationalism" ahead of today's start of an international hearing over their long-running border dispute. Peru is suing Chile in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, saying the maritime borders are unclear and accusing Chile of appropriating its territory. Bolivia has also said it will send a delegation to the court and plans a lawsuit to try to reclaim its ocean access from Chile.

According to Le Parisien, a secret code letter sent in 1812 by Napoleon Bonaparte boasting that his French forces would blow up Moscow's Kremlin has sold at auction for 10 times its estimated presale price. Paris' Museum of Letters and Manuscripts is finalising its purchase of the October 20, 1812, document for €187,500, including fees. Auctioneers at Fontainebleau Auction House south of Paris say the letter is unique.

Australia's ABC reports that New South Wales police have charged a man over his attempt to bite a police dog while being arrested last Saturday. The 31-year-old is accused of trying to bite the dog, named Dexter, on the neck. Dexter retaliated by biting the man on his arm. Police say the incident happened when they were called to the man's house after reports of violence.

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