The following are the top stories in the Maltese and overseas press.

The Sunday Times says a consortium in which nearly 200 of the current bus drivers and owners have a share, is the preferred bidder for the new public transport service because it is cheaper than rival bids. It also says that taxpayers will this year not see the promised drop in the top income tax rate as the government does not yet have the "fiscal flexibility" to honour its electoral pledge, according to the Finance Minister.

The Malta Independent says BP is in fresh controversy over deep see drilling off Libya. Malta is closest EU country to the well. It also says that the Budget consultation document will be published earlier than usual and will focus on social issues.

MaltaToday also features the BP oil well and says Malta is silent on the matter and there are no safety guarantees. It also sais Paul Borg Olivier went on a yachting holiday with contractor Zaren Vassallo.

It-Torca says a government document reflects government concern should there be an accident in the Mediterranean similar to what happened to the BP oil well in the Gulf. It also carries comments by John Bencini accusing Vince Farrugia of changing tune over whether the GRTU is a trade union or an employers' association.

Il-Mument says it as been 20 years since mobile phones were introduced in Malta. The PL had questioned this development. It also says that 5,000 delegates at a pharmaceutical company conference will dine on the granaries next month.

Illum features an interview with the wife of Melchior Spiteri, she says she married a monster and is happy.

KullHadd says the granting of a €40m roads contract is being investigated and two Transport Malta architects have been suspended for potential conflict of interest.

The overseas press

Der Spiegel reports that at least 18 people have been crushed to death and some 100 injured while on their way to attend the Loveparade techno-music festival in the western German city of Duisburg. The tragedy occurred in a tunnel on the way to the festival grounds as police were trying to prevent people from entering the overcrowded site.

Hamas has said the UN call for aid groups to send supplies to the Gaza strip overland rather than by sea amounts to "collaboration with the Israeli occupier". Al Jazeera quotes Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zahri saying the UN call was "unacceptable and illegal".

Louisana Weekly reports that a major vessel charged with drilling a relief well to finally stop the BP oil spill was back at the Gulf of Mexico well site after briefly evacuating due to a tropical storm. The drill rig was among some 10 ships that evacuated the area ahead of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

Scotland on Sunday says the British Conservatives have stepped up pressure on the Scottish Government to publish all medical evidence which led to the Lockerbie bomber's release from prison.

A leading Saudi cleric has condemned France for moving to ban Muslim face veils, but approved of Muslim women foregoing veils when visiting a country which outlaws them. Sheikh Aed al-Qarni told Saudi paper Al-Hayat, "The state has to respect religious rituals and beliefs, including those of Muslims." His comments followed France's parliament voting on July 13 to ban the niqab.

El Tiempo says Mexican police have unearthed at least 51 bodies in a mass grave outside Monterrey since Thursday - a grisly sign of the escalating drug violence in the northern city. Drug-related violence has killed more than 25,000 people throughout Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched his campaign against drug trafficking.

The East African reports that heads of state from across Africa are meeting in Uganda for an African Union summit likely to be dominated by the continuing crisis in Somalia. The meeting comes two weeks after more than 70 people died in bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Uganda is one of the main contributors of troops to the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Grandma says Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro has taken his warning of impending nuclear war to Cuba's Foreign Ministry, where he explained the reasons for his dire prediction in his fifth public appearance in 10 days.

Metro says a 37-year-old man was detained by police in Newcastle upon Tyne after a bride-to-be has had her throat cut hours after reportedly calling off her marriage. Mother of two daughters Lisa Whyte - who was fighting for her life - was attacked at her home in the village of Slamannan in Stirlingshire. The man is due to appear in court in Scotland on Monday in connection with the incident.

The International Herald Tribune reports hundreds of people have held rallies in cities across the world in support of an Iranian woman sentenced to death for adultery. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was originally told she would be killed by stoning but the sentence was put on hold following an international outcry. However, her death sentence remains in place. She has already received 99 lashes for what Iranian officials called an illicit relationship outside marriage.

The author and publisher of bestselling "The Bookseller of Kabul" have been ordered to pay 250,000 kroner (€31,345) in damages to a woman portrayed in the book. The Daily Dagbladet newspaper said the Oslo district court ruled journalist Asne Seierstad infringed the privacy of Suraia Rais in her book, named after Rais's husband, Shah Mohammad Rais. Seierstad lived with the Rais family in Kabul in 2002 and published the book, about their personal relationships and feelings, shortly afterwards. The court ruled Seierstad did not act in good faith to ensure the account of Rais's feelings was accurate and "Rais was not the source of the information".

Penelope Cruz, who last month wed Javier Bardem, is four months pregnant, according to the Spanish daily El Mundo. The couple wed at Musha Cay, in the Bahamas, in illusionist David Copperfield's house during a week of exclusive festivities attended by 24 guests.

Abrar says octopus Paul, famous for its World Cup results predictions, has been the target of an attack by none other than Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said such stories were classical examples of the West's methods of propaganda and superstition. The paper quotes the official Iranian news agency Irna saying Ahmadinejad said those believing in such things cannot be rulers of the world.

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