Today’s papers: No amendments, no diesel, whale in Matrouh

State-run newspapers lead with assurances that there will be no constitutional amendments. “Opportunities are complete for both parties and independent candidates in the elections,” Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar both quote Sawfat el-Sherif as saying.

El-Sherif, secretary-general of the ruling National Democratic Party, refused any discussion on amending the Constitution, saying that it underwent 34 changes in 2005, with Article 76 setting new conditions for candidacy, making it possible for any Egyptian who wants to run for office to do so.

The state-owned papers also quote an announcement by Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali at a press conference that the new pension law will come into effect in 2012, guaranteeing that all insured people over 65 will receive between 65 and 75 percent of their last wage in pensions.

Al-Ahram leads with the story of a man who was killed during a clash waiting in line for diesel fuel. Tensions have been rising since the shortage began last Thursday. One tractor driver in Sharqiya Governorate was stabbed to death after a fight with other drivers waiting at a fuel station.

Al-Wafd elaborates on the diesel shortage, reporting that fuel station owners are blaming the  “transport paralysis” on the government’s reduction of rations by 70 percent 15 days ago. The paper quotes Mohamed el-Shelkani, the owner of a Caltex petrol station on the Ring Road, as saying that the diesel shortage began over two weeks ago, when the daily allotment of 100,000 liters dropped to 30,000. El-Shelkani described the line of waiting cars yesterday as stretching 500 meters outside the station.

Al-Wafd also reports on soaring meat prices, leading its front page with the headline: “Government failure in facing the insane rise in meat prices.” The paper claims that this is the second consecutive week of price increases, and reports that beef currently ranges between LE48 and LE55 per kilo, exceeding LE60 in more affluent districts.

Butchers claim the prices reflect a failure to find an alternative for the sharp reduction in local production, and a recent halt to the import of Ethiopian meat that the government had promised. Butchers are also accusing traders of exploiting the diesel shortage crisis, raising their prices to cover increased transport costs, which has resulted in meat prices in some remote areas reaching LE95 per kilo. Prices in Sharm el-Sheikh, for instance, rose from LE45 to LE95 in one week.

Al-Akhbar reports on the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris, at which Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Younis announced yesterday that procedures are underway to begin construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, to be completed by 2020, with another three plants to become operational by 2025. Together, they are expected to increase Egypt’s grid load by 4000MW. The paper made no reference to the intended location of the plants.

Al-Shorouq quotes official Ministry of Electricity and Energy spokesperson Aktham Abu el-Ela as saying, “It is increasingly likely that el-Dabaa [on Egypt’s western North Coast] will be the site for all four plants.” Abu el-Ela also said that technical studies show that the site can sustain all four proposed plants, but that another location considered, el-Negila, could hold up to eight. However, he also said it would require two years of preparing the land for the sites before construction could begin.

In more unusual news, Al-Shorouq also reports on a 12-meter-long whale that was washed ashore in Matrouh Governorate near the village of el-Zohour. Initial reports suggested that the whale was shot dead when it tried to attack a ship. The body, which weighs about 25 tons, will be cut into smaller pieces and buried.

Sayed Dabour, Head of Environmental Affairs in Matrouh Governorate, said it’s unlikely the whale was shot, but that it had most likely died from becoming lost in a strange environment. He identified it as a member of the “black whale” species.

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