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

Times of Malta says 30 expressions of interest have been submitted in less than 24 hours for the redesign of the controversial monti stalls proposed for Valletta. In another story, it quotes Prime Minister Joseph Mucat saying that although terrorist patterns may be shifting towards soft targets, the government is not aware of any Islamist threat to Malta.

The Malta Independent says that the government’s new rural policy may lead to the sanctioning of the illegal development of Patrick Dalli, husband of Equal Opportunities Minister Helena Dalli. In another story it says the Armed Forces of Malta were on high alert last Thursday and Friday.

L-Orizzont says that around 1,800 people a year contracted cancer in Malta, according to indicators.

Malta Today leads with the burning to death of Jordanian Pilot Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh by the Islamic State.

In-Nazzjon leads with a feature on former Tourism Minister Michael Refalo, who died yesterday.

International news

There has been widespread condemnation of the Islamic State militants after they released a video purporting the death of Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kasasbeh, in which he is seen being burnt alive inside a metal cage. Ad Dustour reports that in a televised address from Washington, King Abdallah of Jordon hailed the pilot as “a hero who died defending his beliefs and his homeland”. The king cut short his visit to the US where he had talks with President Obama. The US president said the video was “just one more indication of the viciousness and barbarity of this organisation”.  British Prime Minister David Cameron said al-Kasasbeh’s “sickening murder will only strengthen our resolve to defeat ISIL”.

Al Ghad says the Jordanian government has vowed to avenge the killing “with an earth-shaking response”. As hundreds of people gathered in the streets of Amman to demand revenge for the pilot’s death, security sources said Iraqi prisoner Sajida al-Rashawi would be executed “within hours”. She had been sentenced to death in Jordan for her role in the 2005 bomb attacks that killed 60 people in Amman.

Ansa reports Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has suggested that Greece and its new Premier Alexis Tsipras should be able to reach a debt-repayment deal following a meeting where the Italian leader also urged both countries continue economic reforms. Renzi emerged from his session with Tsipras cracking jokes, saying “everybody wanted European rules to be respected, but common values also had to be respected”.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has reportedly suggested a new deal for exchanging debt with bailout creditors. According to the Financial Times, Varoufakis has retreated from the idea of writing off debt, instead suggesting that it could be exchanged for bonds that would be repaid only if the Greek economy grew. Greece's leaders have received a guarded welcome to their reported proposals for a debt deal, ahead of crunch talks with EU creditors.

BFMTV news site reports two men have been arrested in Nice in connection with the stabbing of three French soldiers deployed to protect the 717 Jewish sites and schools following the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris last month. They are not in a life-threatening condition. A third accomplice had managed to avoid arrest.

Il Tempo says Italy’s new President Sergio Mattarella was sworn in yesterday and immediately vowed to be an “impartial referee” of Italian politics for the next seven years. The former Constitutional Court justice said Europe needed to speak the common language of growth to upturn the economic cycle. On the question of terrorism, he said the international community must remain close-knit, safe and united. 

According to AGI, American diplomats have reported that the United States and Iran were close to an agreement that would allow Tehran to retain much of its technology enriched uranium in exchange for a reduction of its ability to produce nuclear weapons. The sources pointed out that such a compromise would put an end to the standoff between Iran and Western powers on the nuclear issue.

O Globo says the Argentine investigator has confirmed that the prosecutor found dead in his apartment last month, Alberto Nisman, had written a draft arrest warrant for President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Lead investigator Viviana Fein said the draft warrant was found in a rubbish bin in Mr Nisman’s apartment complex. Nisman was found shot dead the day before he was due to testify in Congress against the president, whom he had accused of covering up alleged Iranian involvement in the bombing 20 years ago of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.

El Salvador’s main national newspapers give prominence to Pope Francis’ announcement that he had authorised that murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero would be beatified as a martyr. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously for the formal martyrdom of the archbishop of San Salvador, who was a vocal opponent of El Salvador’s military dictatorship and was assassinated by a sniper on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass. The Latin American archbishop has been a candidate for beatification since 1997 but his case had been blocked by the Church over concerns that he had Marxist ideas.

People should not waste valuable prayer time by watching soap operas, Pope Francis said Tuesday. Avvenire says that in his latest advice on prayer, the Pope said the faithful should also not spend time that could be given over to prayer by listening to idle gossip. The Pope said “contemplative prayer” was important and this could only be done “with the Gospel in hand”.


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