Wednesday’s papers: Poppy Flowers saga, Sharm peace talks, election demands

Local newspapers today focus their front-page headlines on four chief issues: a ruling relating to the Madinaty residential compound, the Ministry of Culture's ongoing reactions to the theft of Van Gogh's painting in Cairo, the Middle East peace talks held in Sharm al-Sheikh, and disputes relating to the Egyptian state's democratic guarantees for the upcoming parliamentary elections.

State-owned Al-Ahram runs a front-page headline reading “Invalidity of contract for Madinaty project.” The article mentions that the Supreme Administrative Court issued its verdict on Tuesday regarding the contract between the Talaat Mustafa Group (TMG) and the state's New Urban Communities Authority. This verdict upheld an earlier decision issued by the Administrative Court to the same effect–due to the contract's violation of regulations pertaining to auctions and public tenders of state-owned lands.

Covering this same issue, the independent Al-Shorouk publishes a front-page headline reading “Talaat Mustafa Group: owners of residential units in Madinaty will not be affected by court ruling.” The article quotes a TMG spokesperson who mentions that prices of residential units already purchased in Madinaty will not be affected by the court ruling. As for the independent Al-Dostour, its main front-page headline announces the contract's invalidity on the basis that it represents “the squandering of public resources.”

Regarding the continuing judicial investigation into the theft of the van Gogh painting “Poppy Flowers” from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo last month, Al-Ahram's front-page headline quotes Culture Minister Farouk Hosni as saying “The theft of the painting isn't the end of the world.” The newspaper mentions Farouk's reactions at a press conference in which he cited similar thefts of renowned paintings recently perpetrated elsewhere in the world. The minister mentioned that four of Pablo Picasso's paintings were stolen from the National Museum of Modern Art, in Paris, on 16 May this year.

Liberal opposition paper Al-Wafd covers the van Gogh theft in a more critical light. “Independent intellectuals call upon Hosni to resign as Culture Minister.” The article mentions that intellectuals and cultural figures within Egypt and abroad have been calling for the resignation of the minister, due to negligence in numerous cultural matters–topped by the recent van Gogh theft.

As for the Middle East peace talks being held in Egypt's resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh, Al-Wafd runs the following front-page headline “Netanyahu travels to Sharm al-Sheikh despite strike at Ben Gurion Airport.” The article mentions that a strike staged by employees at the Tel Aviv airport did not prevent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from traveling to Egypt's Red Sea resort to partake in the Middle East negotiations.

Al-Ahram's front-page announces “Resumption of direct peace negotiations under the auspices of Mubarak.” The article describes how President Hosni Mubarak is facilitating the direct peace talks being held between Israelis and Palestinians in Sharm al-Sheikh, “the city of peace.” The photo accompanying the article shows Mubarak gesticulating in the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Regarding the preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for October, Al-Dostour mentions “Al-Ghad Party, under the leadership of Ayman Nour, decides to boycott the elections.” The reasoning behind this boycott by the liberal opposition party is not mentioned. Yet the article mentions that Nour called upon the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Wafd Party to follow suit and boycott the elections.

Al-Wafd's coverage of these electoral ramblings runs under the headline “Tomorrow: Declaration from the National Democratic Party regarding guarantees for fair elections.” The article quotes Mufeed Shehab, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, as saying that the NDP is currently laying the ground for democratic guarantees in order to safeguard the elections and ensure that voting is free, fair, and transparent. A declaration to this effect is expected on Thursday.

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-Shorouk: 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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