Syrian President Says Army Is Winning, Announces Arrival of Russian Missile System
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used an interview with the Lebanese al-Manar TV channel, owned by the Hezbollah militant group, to claim that the Syrian army had achieved significant victories over the rebels and now held “the balance of power” in the conflict. He also said that the Syrian government and Hezbollah had been cooperating and were “on the same axis”. “Hezbollah fighters are deployed along the Lebanese-Syrian borders but the operations are conducted by the Syrian army until the terrorist groups are crushed”, he is reported to have said. In another excerpt from the interview, the Syrian president suggested that the controversial Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system had already arrived in the country, despite threats from Israel pledging its destruction. “Syria has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets. The rest of the shipment will arrive soon”, he said. Israeli officials told the Guardian that they didn’t know if they had indeed arrived. “We are trying to find out exactly what the situation is but currently we just don’t know. This move will certainly change the whole dynamic”, said one official.
UK Faces European Court Over Curbs on Benefits to EU Nationals
The European Commission is taking the UK government to the European Court of Justice because it believes the country is discriminating against EU nationals who claim social security benefits. While the EU condones a standard test to determine if a migrant is eligible for welfare payments, the UK’s test goes further and restricts access to benefits that should be available to those arriving from another EU member country. One UK charity, Advice on Individual Rights in Europe, said a number of elderly women, disabled women and lone parents were left destitute by the current policy. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith pledged to fight the case “every step of the way”. “I will not cave in and I will continue to work on strengthening our benefit system in the meantime to ensure it is not open to abuse by anyone”, he said. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper agreed, saying that it was “right that we should have checks in place to make sure people contribute or show commitment to this country before they benefit”.
Spain Probed Over Refusal to Recognise EU Health Card
Spain’s hospitals have begun refusing free emergency medical treatment to EU nationals, effectively charging them as private patients in breach of EU rules, prompting the bloc to probe Spain about the practice. “The commission’s request follows an increasing number of complaints it has received concerning hospitals providing public healthcare services, mainly in tourist areas of Spain, which refuse to treat citizens on the basis of their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and instead request a travel insurance policy and credit card details”, said a statement issued by the European Commission. The EHIC allows holders to get state-funded healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, covering any pre-existing conditions and maternity care. Most treatments should be provided at reduced cost, but one case cited by the commission shows that a woman was billed £400 for treatment on a fractured arm while on holiday in Spain in early 2013 and is now being chased by the hospital for payment because her insurers will not pay for the cost of the treatment.
Venezuela Accuses Colombia of ‘Putting a Bomb’ in Their Relations
The government of Venezuela has accused Colombia of “putting a bomb in the good relations” between the two countries after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles for talks in Bogotá. Capriles lost to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro by just 1.5 percentage points in last month’s presidential elections. “Colombia must clarify if the government is with Capriles’ coup intentions, or with the people of Venezuela and with the legitimate, sovereign and constitutional government of comrade Nicolás Maduro. President Santos is putting a bomb in the good relations that President Chávez urged so much. He is receiving a murderer, a fascist right there in his palace”, said Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly of Venezuela and the deputy head of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Capriles said he was only taking his demands for justice abroad because he was being denied a platform at home, having frequently said that the elections were rigged. “We are taking the voice of millions of Venezuelans beyond our borders. The fight for democracy has to be everyone’s fight”, said the defeated candidate.