Tuesday’s papers: More spills, new negotiations, ‘cultural catastrophes’

State-owned Al-Ahram starts off today’s news with an update on the recent diesel fuel spill along the Aswan coast of the Nile River, with a government spokesperson claiming that, according to reports from the ministries of petroleum, irrigation, and environmental affairs, the majority of the 110 tons of spilt oil has "harmlessly evaporated."

Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Magdy Rady repeated the findings, stating that, due to the fact that "oil is lighter than water," the spill remained on the surface of the river until it was dispersed "into the air." Rady also mentioned that the governor of Aswan has taken precautionary measures to ensure that the town’s supply of drinking water is not tainted by the spill.

In an unrelated incident, a truck transporting 40 tons of diesel fuel and benzene "fell" into a river in Sohag on Monday, resulting in yet another spill. In a public statement, President of the Sohag Waterworks Company Ezzat al-Sayyed stressed that the incident will "have no negative repercussions," as the "remnants" of the diesel and benzene were promptly pumped out of the river.

Meanwhile, "100,000 new job opportunities" have been created within Fayoum’s industrial sector, claims a front-page headline in state-owned Al-Akhbar. According to the paper, the initiative was finalized by Prime Minister Nazif during a meeting with his cabinet on Monday. Al-Akhbar reports that the initiative’s proposed goals include achieving "environmental balance" in the region’s Qarun Lak–a project reported to cost approximately LE100 million.

State-owned and independent papers alike both report on what Al-Akhbar calls "round two" of the direct negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, scheduled to begin Tuesday in Sharm al-Sheikh. Having relaunched negotiations ten days ago in Washington DC, the two leaders will be joined by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. President Mubarak is expected to meet with all parties prior to the negotiations. According to Al-Ahram, the main points of discussion on the Palestinian agenda include issues of security, border control, refugees, and the "Jerusalem situation," with the Israelis maintaining that Palestine must first recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish state.

Reporting on the same issue, independent daily Al-Shorouq’s lead story features a quote from "an American diplomatic source," stating that "no agenda has been set, and we do not expect one to be set before Wednesday, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with both parties in Jerusalem."

Al-Shorouq also briefly reports on the "biggest weapons deal in US history," with the American government selling US$60 billion worth of fighter jets and helicopters to Saudi Arabia. The paper also claims that the Obama administration has been in further negotiations with the Saudi government over warships and anti-missile defense systems which the US will sell for "tens of billions of dollars."

In Al-Wafd, calls for the immediate resignation of Culture Minister Farouk Hosni make front-page news, with two separate organizations demanding that Hosni step down due to the "major cultural catastrophes witnessed in the past two decades," culminating in last month’s theft of a Van Gogh painting from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil museum.

The paper reports that a board member of the Kotab association and Alaa Abdel Hady launched a "scathing" attack on Hosni over what was described as the "organized, habitual looting of Egypt’s artifacts and cultural wealth." Both groups have also come forward with public and written statements blaming Hosni for the deterioration of cinema and theater arts, as well as the rarity of specialized publications.

For his part, Hosni has responded to the attacks, stating that his opponents are "a star-struck minority who mistakenly see stardom in opposition," adding that he is "used to attacks that question his position, as well as deliberate attempts to diminish his achievements."

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