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Press digest

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

The Times leads with a report on the PL annual general conference which is discussing a motion for the party to become a movement. The conference was also addressed by former General Secretary Jason Micallef. It also carries a story about a Malta-Algeria-Tunisia drug ring which included a Maltese who was arrested in Tunis.

The Malta Independent says a €36 million project to restore the bastions has been launched.

l-orizzont says the PL has started a historic general conference. In another story, it says a Maltese woman was arrested by mistake in the UK after her identity was stolen by a woman who has been on the run for two years. It also says that columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia is to be summoned to appear before the Family Court for her alleged involvement in a case of domestic violence.

In-Nazzjon says PL deputy leader Toni Abela was vague when he spoke on abortion during a TV interview. It also reports a 12% increase in Freeport business.

The international press

EU Observer quotes Eurostat figures showing unemployment in the 16 countries that use the euro hit 10 per cent in December for the first time since the single currency was introduced. Some 15.8 million people are now out of work in the eurozone, according to Eurostat. Across all 27 countries that make up the EU, there are now 23 million people unemployed.

The Guardian reports Tony Blair has told the Iraq Inquiry he had "no regrets" about removing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. He said he did not wait for UN backing because he believed it would never have be given, adding that the 9/11 attacks changed the "calculus of risk" and meant it was no longer possible to contain Hussein through sanctions.

La Nacion says police in Peru had airlifted the last of the 1,300 tourists stranded near the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu after floods destroyed road and rail links. The Machu Picchu site, which attracts more than 400,000 visitors a year, will be closed for several weeks.

Paris state prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin has told Europe-1 radio he was appealing the acquittal verdict of former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on charges of taking part in a smear campaign against President Nicolas Sarkozy. On hearing the news, Villepin told France's BFM TV the decision showed Sarkozy preferred to continue "in his relentlessness and hatred" instead of assuming the responsibilities of his office.

Al-Qaeda's chief Osama bin Laden has blamed industrial nations for global warming and urged a boycott of the US dollar to end "slavery". The message, in an audiotape attributed to the terrorist leader, was aired by Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Bild reports the German police have begun an investigation into allegations by five former students at a Jesuit's college in Berlin that they had been sexually abused during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The two priests, who no longer work at the school, had been identified by name by their accusers, who would have been aged 13-17 at the time. German law limits the statute of limitations on sexual abuse to 10 years after the victim has turned 18.

The Australian quotes an unnamed White House advisor on space issues saying a plan to return US astronauts to the moon was dead, confirming reports NASA would instead focus on developing commercial space transport. Floria Today first reported the demise of the programme on Thursday, saying the plan was doomed by financial constraints in the 2011 budget President Barack Obama is to present to Congress on Monday.

The Sun reports that the number of women arrested for violent offences hit a record high in the UK last year, more than doubling over the last decade. Some 88,139 females were held for committing violence last year, compared to 37,100 such arrests in 2000. The police blamed the surge in female brutality on the hard-drinking culture among young women. Hundreds of females brawl in the street every weekend. There was also a rise in attacks by girl gangs.

Jakarta Post says the Indonesian Government has apologised to a woman who lost her leg when a military rocket slammed into her house after a test launch. The 50-year-old woman's leg was amputated while her 60-year-old husband was admitted to hospital with extensive burns. Compensation has been offered to the victims.

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