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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
What the papers say

Journalist Andy Wood takes a look at what is making the headlines in Wednesday's morning papers.

The row over the photographs claiming to show British soldiers mistreating prisoners in Iraq shows no sign of abating.

Leading the attack on the Mirror, which first printed the pictures, is the Daily Express.

"Shameful truth" is how the Express headlines its coverage, with the claim that the photographs were "produced to order".

The Express says soldiers who originally tried to sell the story of mistreatment were told it would be "worth a fortune if there were corroborating pictures and weeks later they produced them".

The Express is joined by the Mail in speculating that the pictures were produced in Britain by TA soldiers.

For its part, the Mirror is unrepentant and defiant.

Its leader column says no one has produced any evidence that the pictures are a hoax and the inquiry announced by the government "will have to proceed without knowing the two whistleblowers".

The Mirror says it is "a fundamental principle of journalism that sources are protected".

Oil prices

The Financial Times reminds its readers and the rest of us that trouble in the Middle East inevitably has financial implications elsewhere.

"Oil prices soar amid fears over Mid east" the FT says, reporting that the benchmark price of Brent Crude has gone up by nearly $2 since Monday to reach its highest level since the first Gulf War.

The oil market is "tight", the paper says, while demand in China and the USW is strong, 10 OPEC members have cut their production by more than a third of a million barrels a day.

Both Dublin papers have the same front page lead: the expelling from the Fianna Fail parliamentary party of Mayo TD Beverley Flynn, after a failed libel action against RTE.

The Irish Times and the Irish Independent both report Ms Flynn's determination to fight plans to strip her of all Fianna Fail membership.

"I'll fight tooth and nail to stay in the party," she is quoted as saying.

It is the opening salvoes in the local government and European election campaigns which make the lead in the Daily Telegraph.

It says Tony Blair and senior cabinet ministers launched "a negative and highly personal attack" on Tory leader Michael Howard.

The paper says this is a sign that Labour regards Mr Howard as "the most formidable opponent Mr Blair has faced".

Planned closure

And still with politics, the News Letter's lead story appears to suggest that "less may be more" when it comes to local government in the province.

The paper says the government wants to "slash" the number of Northern Ireland district councils, getting rid of as many as 17 of the 26 and producing nine so-called "super councils" by amalgamation.

The News Letter's leader column says such an overhaul would emphasise what it calls "the Bann divide" with unionists in control of councils to the east and republicans and nationalists in control to the west of the Bann.

Re-organisation of another kind makes the lead in the Irish News - the plan by Queen's University to wind up its Armagh campus.

Assembly members from the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and Sinn Fein all say they will oppose the planned closure.

Finally, from the Guardian, news of a treat in store for fans at this year's Glastonbury Festival - a full scale performance by the English National Opera of Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries.

A Glastonbury spokesman is unconcerned by the mix, telling the Guardian: "A Glastonbury audience is prepared for anything... in the mid 1990s we had Rolf Harris and he went down very well".


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