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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Egypt’s Deadline Hour Passes, Millions Await Developments

The 48-hour deadline given to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to find a solution to the country’s political crisis passed on Tuesday without a clear indication of the Army’s position in imposing its so-called “roadmap”. Egypt’s National Security Adviser Essam El-Haddad took to Facebook to say that the country was undergoing a military coup, adding that those could be his “last words” while sources in Egypt insisted Morsi had been placed in house-arrest by the military, an assertion later clarified by presidential advisors as a travel ban. Morsi had earlier taken to Facebook to suggest the creation of a national consensus government as a way out of the crisis. “The presidency envisions the formation of a consensus coalition government to oversee the next parliamentary election”, said the statement, adding that the president held opposition parties responsible for the current crisis. The army had taken to Facebook itself earlier in the day to say it had been meeting with a cross-section of Egyptian society in order to discuss the country’s political future, still unclear at this time.

Bolivian Presidential Plane in Forced Diversion to Austria, Suspected of Carrying Snowden

The saga over the destiny of US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden took a bizarre twist early on Tuesday as the airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales was forced to make an emergency landing in Austria after apparently being denied permission to fly over the airspaces of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal over fears that it was carrying Snowden after the Bolivian president’s official visit to Russia. “We don’t know who invented this lie. We want to denounce to the international community this injustice with the plane of Evo Morales”, said Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, adding that the situation had “put at risk the life of the president”. The aircraft was subject to a “voluntary inspection” in Vienna, according to Austrian Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger, an apparent condition of it being given overflight rights by Spain. Bolivian Defence Minister Ruben Saavedra, present on the flight, suggested the action had been orchestrated by the US. “This is a hostile act by the United States state department which has used various European governments”, he said. The Bolivian presidential plane was allowed to fly out of Vienna after the search.

Portuguese President Calls for Crisis Talks as Coalition Crumbles

Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva has summoned the leaders of the country’s main political parties to a meeting amidst fears about the government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho. His finance minister, Vitor Gaspar, who pushed through an agenda of spending cuts and tax hikes in order to meet the conditions of the country’s bailout, resigned on Monday saying he feared an erosion in support for his measures. This triggered the resignation of Foreign Minister Paulo Portas on Tuesday, who disagreed with the appointment of Treasury Secretary Maria Luis Albuquerque as Gaspar’s replacement. Portas is the leader of the CDS-PP party, a minority partner in government. If he decides to pull out of the coalition the government would no longer have a majority in parliament. The crisis erupts weeks before inspectors from the EU and the IMF arrive in the country to review the Portuguese economy on July 15. President Cavaco Silva is expected to call for a grand coalition government, but few analysts expect his talks to end successfully, potentially leading to snap elections at a turbulent time.

UK to Tackle Health Tourism With Levy on Foreigners

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced measures to tackle foreigners from visiting the UK for the sole purpose of receiving free medical care. The crackdown proposal, which will be put out for public consultation, includes charging GP visits for those who are in the country for less than six months, a registration and tracking system to ensure visitors to the UK are charged for hospital stays and facilitating the National Health Service (NHS) from claiming back costs from other EU countries. Non-British residents will be made to pay an annual fee of at least £200 to use NHS services. “We are a national health service, not an international health service, and I am determined to wipe out abuse in the system,” said Hunt. The government plans to carry out an audit to find out the extent of the problem, but estimates of how much health tourism costs the NHS range from £12 million to £200 million a year.

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