The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press.
The four local newspapers are dominated by yesterday’s controversy over an audio recording featuring GWU General Secretary Tony Zarb.
The Times and In-Nazzjon report how the prime minister called for Mr Zarb’s resignation for implying that the union can give ‘a push’ for tenders for those companies which were friendly with it. l-orizzont says the PN manipulated the union’s fight against precarious work.
In other stories, The Times says Malta hopes to keep its €600m in EU budget talks. The Malta Independent says the horse trading is underway in the EU summit.
l-orizzont reports that €383,500 have been spent on a study on converting the Delimara power station to gas.
Bloomberg reports that EU leaders meeting in Brussels sparred into the night to try to bridge deep divisions over the budget for the next seven years. Britain and several other countries want the EU to cut its budget with Prime Minister David Cameron vowing to veto any deal which did not reduce spending. He insisted on cuts in a proposed seven-year subsidies package of €973 billion – already trimmed once, from €1.047 trillion in November. But other leaders say cuts in the proposed budget would harm the chances of essential economic growth. Predictions abounded that the talks could drag into the weekend. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said leaders were still holding different positions and their positions “are still far apart”.
Al Jazeera says the International Criminal Court has ordered Libya to hand over Muammar Gaddafi’s former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi over his alleged role in orchestrating reprisals against the protesters in the 2011 uprising that overthrew Gaddafi. Libya’s new rulers say Gaddafi-era leaders in their custody should face local justice over charges of mass killings and other atrocities.
Radio Tunis confirms reports that Tunisian police have fired teargas in Tunis and other towns and cities to try to stop anti-government protests. The demonstrators want the downfall of the government led by the Islamist Ennahda party which they blame for Wednesday’s assassination of the opposition leader Chokri Belaid.
VOA says the man President Obama wants to become the next head of the CIA, John Brennan, has defended controversial attacks by unmanned drones to kill militant suspects. He was appearing before the Senate intelligence committee for his confirmation hearing. Anti-drone protesters temporarily stopped the session complaining of the civilian casualties they cause.
Fox News quotes US Secretary of State John Kerry warning that North Korea's expected nuclear tests only increase the risk of conflict and would do nothing to help the country's stricken people. Kerry made the remarks when he dropped in on a group of young students taking a foreign policy classroom in the State Department. North Korea has vowed to carry out a third nuclear test soon, and concerns have been raised over the type of fissile material used in the device.
Fars news agency reports Iran’s supreme leader has strongly rejected proposals for direct talks with United States on its nuclear programme and other issues. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all key matters, has previously opposed direct negotiations with Washington. Iran and six world powers, including the US, are scheduled to resume nuclear negotiations later this month.
Radio Liberty quotes a UN report saying that the cost of corruption in Afghanistan rose sharply last year to $3.9 billion (€2.8 billion), and half of all Afghans bribed public officials for services. The findings came despite repeated promises by President Hamid Karzai to clean up his government. Donor nations also fear aid money could be diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged.
Al-Arabiya says militants have issued death threats against employees of Iraq’s election commission, raising concerns about security ahead of the upcoming provincial balloting. The April 20 vote is the first nationwide ballot since 2010. The commission has disqualified 131 of 8,224 candidates for 18 provincial councils for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein now-disbanded Baath party.
The National says more than 100 women were dumped unconscious in a field after a mass sterilisation in India because there was no room in hospital for them to recuperate. The scandal came to light after a news channel aired amateur footage of unconscious women being carried out of the hospital by men and placed on open land. Local health officials have promised an inquiry.
The Moscow Times reports lawyers for three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot are contesting their convictions in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The three were sentenced to two years in prison for their public protest in Moscow’s main cathedral last February against President Putin. The complaint filed on Wednesday alleges that the group’s conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial.
TV Novosti announces that a year before the 2014 Winter Olympics are to begin, President Vladimir Putin has demanded that a senior member of the Russian Olympic Committee, Akhmed Bilalov, be fired, due to infrastructure delays and cost overruns in host city Sochi. The current price tag for the Sochi Games is 1.5 trillion rubles (€38 billion), which would make them the most expensive games in the history of the Olympics - more costly even than the much-larger Summer Olympics held in London and Beijing.