Tuesday’s papers: Mubarak and Sarkozy get silly and more van Gogh fallout

State flagship Al-Ahram tops its front page with what looks like President Mubarak and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy sharing a lighthearted and spontaneous moment in Paris. It actually looks like the two presidents are acting a bit silly and cracking each other up–a nice and unexpected change of pace from the usual pictures of Mubarak stolidly observing a parade or sitting on that same gilt-edged chair.

Nevertheless, the story accompanying that picture is pretty much a prototype generic, state-newspaper diplomacy story. This time, the headline boasts that France and Egypt “agree to support direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority”–whatever that means.

Sarkozy is also quoted with comments meant to head off a potential resumption of Israeli settlement building when a self-imposed 10-month moratorium on construction ends on 26 September. Any kind of restart of construction, according to Sarkozy, would be “an illogical decision in the context of the direct negotiations.”

Elsewhere on Al-Ahram’s front page, beleagured Culture Minister Farouk Hosni continues to play defense over the nonexistent security that allowed a $50 million dollar Van Gogh painting to be stolen in broad daylight last week. Hosni, after being questioned at the North Giza prosecutor’s office, told reporters that he, “didn’t come  to accuse anyone specific, but to defend himself and his ministry,” the article stated.

Hosni followed up that statement by accusing someone specifically–namely Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalaan, who the article states was “responsible for the lack of development” in the broken security system at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum.  

Opposition daily Al-Wafd tops its front page with a hand-traced mugshot of a man who might be regarded as a potential suspect in the theft. The man who drew the picture, according to the newspaper, was Deputy Minister Shalaan himself, from his jail cell. Shalaan was arrested on charges of criminal negligence shortly after the theft. Now, according to the Al-Wafd article, he’s helping investigators by drawing mugshots of potential thieves. The drawing in question, the paper states, depicts a man who security guards maintain “visited the museum three times on the day of the theft.”

The guards, several of whom were also arrested, apparently described the suspicious man to Shaalan, who, according to Al-Wafd, “used his talents” as an artist to draw the mugshot. At least they’re all managing to keep busy in jail.

Independent daily Al-Shorouq brings us more van Ghogh details, with Shalaan’s lawyer claiming his client has “documents against the Minister of Culture” and requesting a face-to-face confrontation with Hosni.

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