Press digest

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

The Times says a gas terminal would take four years to complete, according to a report by Lehmeyer international to the government in 2008. It also reports how Frank Sammut, a former member of the Oil Procurement Committee, was questioned by the police yesterday.

The Malta Independent leads with the police questioning of Frank Sammut.  It also reports how the political leaders and the social partners endorsed the UHM's Jobs Plus initiative.

MaltaToday says the Commission Against Corruption in 2003 had investigated a Birkirkara businessman's report against Frank Sammut but found no evidence against him. The commission has not released the report. It also says the European Commission may launch court action against Malta over the Marsa power station.

In-Nazzjon says more incentives are to be offered by a PN government to promote job creation. It also says the PN executive is discussing the PN electoral programme.

l-orizzont reports that Frank Sammut was interrogated by the police. It also says MIA expects growth of 1.3% in passenger numbers this year.

The overseas press

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has claimed victory in Israel's election, despite unexpected losses to resurgent centre-left challengers. Al Jazeera quotes him saying the new government would be focusing on five points, primarily being security and Iran. Exit polls showed the Israeli leader's Likud party, coupled with the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu group, would still be the biggest bloc in the 120-member assembly with 31 seats – 11 fewer than the 42 they held in the previous parliament. The projections showed right-wing parties with a combined strength of 61-62 seats against 58-59 for the centre-left

Ad Dustour reports the Muslim Brotherhood has called for voters to boycott today’s legislative elections in Jordan, which have been touted as a key milestone in the kingdom’s “evolution” towards democracy. A low turnout would undermine the authority of the new parliament, while high numbers would legitimise King Abdullah’s aim to reform his country’s political system through a process of gradual evolution.

Deutsche Welle reports EU finance ministers have approved a move by Germany, France and nine other EU nations to introduce a tax on financial transactions to help pay for a bailout of European banks and discourage risky trades. The 11 member states – which also include Spain, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia – decided to proceed on their own after it had become clear last year that an EU-wide tax would not pass in the 27-nation bloc.

France 24 says French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to silence speculation that ties between their countries had hit a low as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of a treaty that sealed their post-war reconciliation. The treaty was signed in 1963 by former French President Charles de Gaulle and then-German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, as an official stamp of reconciliation between the two countries nearly two decades after the end of World War II. Since then, it has served as the cornerstone of French-German relations, a key partnership within the European Union.

Le Figaro reports the chief of oil giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua appeared in a French court on Tuesday over allegations of corruption and bribery in the UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq. The programme was operated between 1996 and 2003 to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people by allowing the country to sell some of its oil, despite the embargo imposed after the first Gulf War. According to a UN report, it gave rise to graft on an international scale, amounting to billions of dollars.

Le Parisien says a majority of teachers in Paris, who voted in droves for President François Hollande last year, went on strike on Tuesday to protest against government plans to add a half-day to the school week. They say the reform does nothing to improve the quality of education for children, and will simply force teachers to spend more time at the workplace with no compensation.

Jakarta Post quotes the lawyer for a British grandmother sentenced to death in Indonesia for smuggling cocaine saying she wouldf appeal against her sentence. Lindsay Sandiford was found with almost five kilograms of cocaine in the lining of her suitcase during a routine customs check at Bali's airport last May. Police had argued that Sandiford was the ringleader of a drug importing ring involving three other Britons and an Indian, who have also been arrested.

USA Today says three people are in hospital after gunfire broke out during an argument between two people on the campus of a community college in the American state of Texas. Two people were detained after the incident, including one with a student identification.

According to Metro, a leak of mercaptan gas at a Normandy chemical plant on Tuesday released unpleasant but non-toxic fumes that could be detected as far away as Paris and southeast England. The odour, smelling like rotten eggs alarmed residents but the authorities said the vapour was harmless. Mercaptan is a colourless additive used in natural gas because its sulphurous smell enables gas leaks to be detected.

Nederlands Dagblad reports that Dutch police have arrested three people over a multimillion-euro heist from a Netherlands art gallery. The paintings, by artists including Picasso, Matisse, Monet, have not been recovered. The announcement marked the first breakthrough for police since thieves broke open an emergency exit and stole the seven pieces on October 16 last year in a late night raid at the Kunsthal gallery in Rotterdam.



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