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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 07:13 GMT
Papers ponder 'Osama Presley' issue
With another video release fuelling speculation over the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, many of Friday's papers quote a retired US admiral's description of him as the Elvis Presley of the East.

Whatever happens next, the Daily Telegraph says, stories, rumours and fanciful inventions will circulate about him for years.

There will be reported sightings of him in supermarkets and on buses.

But there's also a widespread view that he must be found, dead or alive.

The hunt for Bin Laden is not a sideshow, the The Mirror declares. It is crucial to the war on terrorism.

The Independent believes that the very existence of the video denotes an American failure.

For The Guardian, it will be hard for Washington to claim victory in Afghanistan without Bin Laden's death or capture.

Blair holiday

The prime minister and his wife, Cherie, are widely featured touring the pyramids during a family holiday in Egypt.

The Independent says the trip is certain to be interpreted as a gesture of solidarity with Egypt, which has supported the bombing of Afghanistan.

According to The Guardian, Tony Blair put his money and his family where his diplomatic mouth has been since 11 September.

His choice of destination, the Daily Mail says, will earn him significant brownie points in the Middle East.

The Sun, too, sees the choice as what it calls a fine symbol of solidarity with our millions of peace loving friends in the Middle East.

Tory credibility

A number of papers report that the former Shadow Foreign Secretary, Francis Maude, has suggested that Conservative MPs should spend a few hours a week for the next two years working as classroom assistants, hospital porters or special constables.

The Times says Mr Maude believes this would restore the party's credibility on public service.

The Independent quotes him as saying: "It's no good this being done as a publicity stunt...we need to speak about these issues from a position of obvious knowledge and commitment."

Currency nostalgia

Many papers continue to prepare their readers for the arrival of the euro in the 12 participating countries on New Year's Day.

According to the Telegraph, sentimentality about the mark among Germans has gone out of fashion - and packs of euro coins were the most popular Christmas presents.

But, the paper goes on, the Italians are suddenly becoming nostalgic about the lira.

Despite the many zeros and history of inflation, it says, the currency has still helped to spell unity in an otherwise fractious country.

Christmas spirit

Finally, the Sun ponders the mystery of a couple who dressed in Santa outfits and cycled along Brighton seafront on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, handing out 5 notes to passers-by.

The money came with Christmas cards signed by Mr and Mrs Claus and an email address.

Families out for a stroll, the paper says, were astonished to receive the surprise extra gifts - the couple even gave them to swimmers who emerged freezing after a traditional Christmas dip.

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