Thursday’s papers: Mubarak in Europe, scandal in Madinaty

With state-owned Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers focusing on President Hosni Mubarak’s Berlin summit, independent papers run headlines on the controversy over the Madinaty land sale and pro-democracy protests against the president’s son, Gamal Mubarak. Meanwhile, the two state-owned newspapers highlight a speech by a Christian bishop that was seen as “offensive” to Muslims.

On the front pages of Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar, Mubarak’s European tour takes center stage, with his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel making headlines. According to Al-Ahram, the two leaders discussed Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts. The president is scheduled to head to Rome for a meeting with his Italian counterpart following his meetings with Merkel. But the newspaper’s reports do not contain any revelations, instead carrying projections of what could result from the European tour, with Al-Ahram stating that Mubarak will raise the issue of Israel being “unclear” about its settlements construction policy.

Al-Gomhouriya’s editor in chief Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, in light of the summit, publishes a long editorial on how Egypt, a primary mediator in the region, is stuck between a rock and a hard place, namely between “provocative Hamas” and “arrogant Israel.” The column sings the praises of Mubarak’s efforts, encouraging “direct talks,” saying that “the Palestinians won’t lose a thing if direct talks are extended,” and defending the decision to delay a planned summit in Sharm al-Sheikh.

Meanwhile, several newspapers choose to put the spotlight on the disputed sale of a suburban plot of land to construction magnate Talaat Mustafa in the affair known as “Madinaty,” the name of the gated community that is being built at that location. Building has already started and many have already paid advances for luxury apartments and villas there. Rose Al-Youssef claims “exclusive” coverage of the latest developments, which include withdrawing the land from Mustafa and reselling it to him for “social and economic considerations” and through “direct agreement.”

News agencies on Thursday are already reporting that Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has announced the reallocation of the Madinaty land. According to Reuters, cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said a “group of ministers was drawing up details of the arrangement for final approval by the cabinet on Sunday.” Despite Rose Al-Youssef saying that the land will be resold to Mustafa himself, nothing in the Reuters report suggests that and so far the pro-government mouthpiece and the independent Al-Shorouk newspaper remain the only two sources of this information. The newspaper however, like the agency, says that the cabinet is expected to meet Sunday to approve this decision.

In others news, both Al-Wafd and Al-Dostour run stories–complete with teasers on the front pages–on a speech given by a high-ranking Coptic Christian priest, Bishop Bishoy. According to Al-Wafd, the bishop raised doubts about some verses of the Quran, subtly suggesting that a verse might have been added after the death of the Prophet Mohamed. The newspaper reports that the general prosecutor has received complaints. Meanwhile, Islamist lawyer Nabih al-Wahsh has filed a court case as a warning to the Coptic Pope Shenouda, in which he asks the latter to fire Bishoy. Al-Dostour, on the other hand, quotes from the bishop’s speech given during a conference on Christian orthodoxy, saying the Christian priest claimed that “Muslim scholars support that Jesus was crucified," something that defies what most Muslims believe.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouq: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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