Press digest

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

The Times says the emissions cuts will cost Malta €100,000 not €18m. The story focuses on refurbishment works which will be carried out on a power station boiler. It also says that thieves preyed on the prayerful in various churches.

The Malta Independent quotes the prime minister saying the people of Mosta deserved better. It also reports Joseph Muscat saying the prime minister is playing for time.

In-Nazzjon says the people of Mosta had suffered because of poor choices by its Labour-controlled council and inaction by Joseph Muscat.

l-orizzont says the mother of a motorcylist killed in a crash in Attard four months ago it still waiting for thieves to return his personal belongings. The newspaper also features comments by Joseph Muscat on hospital patients being let down by the government.

The overseas press

Thousands of protesters in Greece and hundreds of thousands in Spain took to the streets on Sunday to protest against spending cuts they say would force ordinary people to bear the brunt of the debt crisis.

Kathimerini says 3,500 joined two separate rallies in the Greek capital against further cuts agreed to by Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' cabinet on Saturday while others demonstrated in the second city of Thessaloniki. In Athens, hundreds of police shadowed the demonstrations, as a group of youths threw stones and bottles at a cordon of riot police guarding the parliament building. The police retaliated with bursts of tear gas. At a meeting in Brussels later today, eurozone finance ministers are expected to decide whether to give Greece the much-needed €130 billion to avoid bankruptcy in mid-March, when a huge repayment on its governmental debt must be made. Some ministers doubt Athen’s commitment to its spending pledges and want strong mechanisms to ensure its debts are paid.

Meanwhile, El Pais reports protests in more than 50 Spanish cities. The largest were in Madrid and Barcelona, both of which drew hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. In the Spanish capital, protesters marched behind a large banner that read "No to the unfair, inefficient and useless reform". They were objecting not just to the latest labour market reforms approved by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government, but to the government spending cuts aimed at reining in the public deficit. Rajoy defended the labour reform at a congress of his Popular Party in Seville, saying it was “fair, good for Spain and necessary”.

According to the Financial Times, Iran is struggling to find a buyer for nearly a quarter of its annual oil exports as looming western sanctions targeting the country’s nuclear programme start to bite the world’s third-biggest crude exporter. According to two industry executives familiar with the talks, Tehran is trying to sell an extra 500,000 barrels a day of oil, or nearly 23 per cent of what it exported last year, to Chinese and Indian refiners.

Meanwhile, Business Week says Iran has stopped selling its crude oil to French and British companies – a move that seems likely to have little direct impact on European supplies. The UK doesn't import Iranian oil, and Total SA – the largest French oil company and once the main importer of Iranian oil to France – stopped purchases from Tehran in late 2011. In addition, The European Union approved a ban on oil imports from Iran last month but delayed full implementation until July 1 so that Greece, Spain and Italy had enough time to find alternative supplies.

El Universal reports fighting between two warring drug cartels appears to have killed 44 inmates in what may be Mexico's deadliest prison riot. The prisoners died when inmates from one cell block invaded another cell block in a prison in Apodaca, a few miles from the city of Monterrey, Mexico's industrial capital. The dead prisoners were stabbed, beaten and hit with stones in the fighting. The director and the entire prison staff on duty at the time have been detained to determine if guards were involved in the fighting.

Berliner Zeitung says Germany’s government and main opposition parties have agreed to nominate Joachim Gauck, a former East German human rights activist, as candidate for the federal presidency. President Christian Wulff quit Friday over a corruption probe.

French 24 reports President Nicolas Sarkozy defended his record on Sunday during his first major campaign speech at a rally in the southern city of Marseille. He also took aim at Socialist rival and current front-runner, Francois Hollande. Meanwhile, in a key campaign speech almost nine weeks ahead of France's presidential elections, French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen slammed globalisation and immigration, warning of adverse effects on the country's economy and national identity.

Pravda says that hundreds of Moscow drivers flying white balloons and ribbons have circled the Kremlin in a noisy protest against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's likely return as president in March 4 polls. The second such auto rally in three weeks was picked up on a smaller scale in other cities as the opposition sought to keep up momentum after launching the biggest wave of anti-Putin rallies in December.

The Sunday version of Rupert Murdoch's top-selling British tabloid The Sun will hit the shelves for the first time next weekend. The Sun's website carried the Australian-born media tycoon's News International announcement to staff in an internal memo. News International closed down its News of the World Sunday tabloid last year after revelations of widespread phone hacking by reporters.





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