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Press digest

The following are the top stories in the national and international press today.

The Times leads with a story saying that a disused landfill to be Gozo is to be transformed into a solar farm that would produce 10,000 units of electricity a year. In another story it says that two Medavia officers have been arrested in Libya and are being interrogated in Zawia. The Maltese government is monitoring the situation.

In-Nazzjon says that European funds are being used for the training of discharge nurses, a project that will help patients spend less time in hospital and continue with their care at home.

l-Orizzont says that in the past four-and-a-half years the police investigated a number of cases of abuse on children referred to them by Appogg. In another story, the newspaper says that l-Istrina has lost Juan, one of its angels. Juan was one of the beneficiaries of the event who also worked hard for funds to be collected to help others.

The Independent interviews President Emeritus Ugo Mifsud Bonnici who speaks on the legacy of il-Gross and his literary contribution.

The international press

Al Arabiya quotes opposition activists in Syria saying at least 90 people have been killed and many others wounded by a government air strike as they were queuing at a bakery in the rebel-held town of Halfaya. The UK-based opposition activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 50 of the wounded were in critical condition and the death toll could rise.

France 24 says the attack on Halfaya came as UN-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Damascus to rekindle efforts to resolve the 22-month crisis in the country. Brahimi, who was appointed to the job in September, has made little progress towards negotiating an end to violence, mostly because neither side appears interested in talks. The envoy is widely expected to sit down for talks with President Bashar al-Assad today. The trip is Brahimi’s third to Syria in almost as many months.

The Egyptian Gazette reports the country’s main opposition group has called for an investigation into alleged irregularities in Saturday’s referendum on a new constitution. However, the national Salvation Front has said it will not contest the overall result. Preliminary results following Saturday's second and final round of the referendum suggest that some 63 per cent of voters had backed the Islamist-backed charter.

According to Corriere della Sera, Mario Monti, who resigned as Italy's prime minister on Friday, has said he is ready to govern the country again as head of a pro-reform coalition in favour of change in Italy and Europe. However, he rejected Silvio Berlusconi's offer to lead the centre-right in next year's election, leaving himself open to offers from other parties. Monti cannot officially be on the ballot for the February 24-25 vote as he is already a senator-for-life but under Italy's electoral system he could be asked to join the government, even as prime minister, by whoever wins.

Asia Times reports North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for the development of more powerful rockets after the successful launch of a satellite into space. The North's official media said Kim made the call at a banquet for rocket scientists in Pyongyang. The United States, South Korea and others have condemned the launch as a test of ballistic missile technology banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

No-one wanted to be president less than Mitt Romney, his son said in an interview that raises new questions about the candidacy of the losing Republican nominee. In an interview with The Boston Globe examining what went wrong with the Romney campaign, his eldest son Tagg said his father had been a reluctant candidate from the start. After failing to win the 2008 Republican nomination, Mr Romney told his family he would not run again and had to be persuaded to enter the 2012 White House race by his wife Ann and son Tagg.

Le Confident says rebels in the Central African Republic have seized the important town of Bambari as part of their offensive against President Francois Bozize, whom they accuse of failing to honour a 2007 peace deal. Their move into Bambari comes a day after regional leaders called on the rebels to withdraw back to their original positions and accept talks with the government.

Islamists in Mali have begun destroying remaining mausoleums in the historic city of Timbuktu. A leader of the Islamist group Ansar Dine told AFP news agency that all mausoleums will smashed as they were “un-Islamic”. Islamists in control of northern Mali began earlier this year to pull down shrines that they consider idolatrous.

El Universal reports masked gunmen in Mexico have ambushed and killed four policemen and injured another five in central Michoacan state, where rival drug cartels have been fighting a bloody turf war. Earlier this month, the Brisenas police chief and three other officials were kidnapped by unidentified attackers and are still missing. Some 60,000 people have died across Mexico since 2006 when the government deployed the military against the drugs gangs.

British newspaper The Sunday Times says it is suing Lance Armstrong for over £1 million (€1.23 million) over a libel payment made to the disgraced cyclist in 2006. The newspaper paid Armstrong £300,000 (€368,000) to settle a libel case after previously suggesting that he may have cheated. But the United States Anti-Doping Agency subsequently found that he had led the "most sophisticated" doping programme in sporting history, leading to a life ban for the Texan, who was also stripped of his seven Tour de France wins. The newspaper is demanding the return of the original settlement payment, along with interest and legal costs.

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