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

The Sunday Times leads with interviews with the two political leaders. The prime minster says undecided voters can still affect the result. It also says that fewer voting documents remain uncollected than in the last general election.

The Malta Independent on Sunday quotes Joseph Muscat saying Labour is for a new style of politics. The prime minister said the PN's track record on the economy spoke for itself.

It-Torca says Tonio Fenech has disappeared from the scene after his claims on Joe Cordina were shown to be false.

Il-Mument says this is the most important week of the electoral campaign.

Illum and MaltaToday lead with a survey of voting intentions, showing Labour ahead by 12% at 40.2%, but a large chunk of voters still say they are undecided.

KullHadd says the PL continued with its positive campaign despite negative attacks by the PN.

The overseas press

Al Wihda reports that Chad’s army has killed one of the most senior Islamist militants in North Africa. Mokhtar Belmokhtar was suspected of ordering the attack on an Algerian gas plant in January when more than 30 hostages were killed. Reports of the killing came a day after Chadian President Idriss Deby said the country's forces had killed al-Qaeda militant Abdelhamid Abou Zeid during clashes in northern Mali.

CNN reports President Obama has appointed a new coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf. The White House announced Philip Gordon, a veteran foreign policy expert, would take up his post on March 11. The appointment came two weeks before Obama is set to visit Israel, Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan.

Avvenire says one of Pope Benedict's final acts in charge at the Vatican was to sign an order ensuring no tweeting or texting from the conclave. Anyone found communicating with the outside world will face automatic excommunication according to the new order. The Santa Marta Residence where the cardinals will be staying is also reportedly equipped with an electromagnetic shield that will block all signals.

L’Unità reports that President Giorgio Napolitano has called on all stakeholders in Italy’s political spectrum to safeguard the interests of the country and its international repute. He recommended politicians maintain a “sense of responsibility”. Napolitano’s plea came after Movimento Cinque Stelle leader Beppe Grillo said his people would not vote in any new government, least of all one formed by the centre-left PD and the centre-right PDL. In his blog, he said his anti-establishment citizens’ movement would be ready to support legislation by conscience, on a one-by-one basis, if it matched the movement's agenda.

Radio Renasçenca says hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Lisbon and other Portuguese cities on Saturday to protest against centre-right Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s government's austerity measures aimed at rescuing the debt-hit eurozone nation. Portugal was granted a financial rescue package worth €78 billion in May 2011 in exchange for a pledge to straighten out its finances through austerity measures and economic reforms. Lisbon has to reduce its public deficit to 4.5 per cent of GDP this year.

According to Wall Street Italia, small Italian companies are now on the brink of generalised insolvency with at least one small enterprise in two unable even to pay its workers on time, being obliged to settle by instalments or delay payments because of lack of liquidity. The alarm was launched by the CGIA of Mestre, a SME association, which revealed that since the beginning of the crisis, the number of credit instruments defaulting at expiry has grown by 12.8 per cent while the banks' bad loans to enterprises have soared 165 per cent.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed there would be no “lurch to the right” by the Conservatives in the wake of the party's drubbing in the Eastleigh by-election. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he insisted he would "stick to the course we are on", despite seeing the Tories beaten into third place behind the UK Independence Party (Ukip). Cameron said he fully understood the concerns of voters impatient for change.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused the British government of bullying and naivety in its approach to the conflict in his country. He told The Sunday Times newspaper Britain was determined to militarise the situation. He repeated his conditional offer of talks with the opposition and dismissed suggestions that he might step down. The UK says it supports the Syrian opposition but does not provide rebels with arms. However, at a recent Friends of Syria meeting in Rome, Foreign Secretary William Hague said military aid was possible in the future.

Delegates from 130 countries have gathered in Bangkok to consider new proposals aimed at combating the illegal trade in wildlife. Bangkok Post says that with a global crisis being fuelled by the trade, many participants believe that this is the most crucial gathering in the 40-year history of the convention of the international trade in endangered species.

Afghan Post reports international forces in Afghanistan have apologised for the killing of two Afghan shepherd boys, both under the age of seven, in Uruzgan forces. The boys died when a helicopter of the Nato-led force opened fire on them. A military statement said they were mistaken for insurgents.

Betar says Bangladesh has stepped up security ahead of a two-day strike called in protest at a death sentence given to an Islamist party leader. Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, of Jamaat-e-Islami, was sentenced on charges including murder, rape and torture during the war of independence in 1971. The sentence on Thursday sparked riots that have left at least 45 people dead. The Islamists say the tribunal is politically motivated, something the Bangladesh government denies.

Global Post reports rescue teams in Florida have called off their efforts to recover the body of a man swallowed by a huge sinkhole under his home. Jeffrey Bush, 36, who is presumed dead, disappeared into the sinkhole that engulfed his bedroom while he slept on Thursday night. The authorities said they were not sure how deep the underground cavity stands and recovering the body was not possible.

 

 

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