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Middle east

Syria has received Russian missiles, Assad says

© Kremlin

Text by HAARETZ

Latest update : 2013-05-30

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Wednesday that the regime has already received a shipment of S-300 air defence missiles from Russia and that “the rest will arrive soon”. He made the announcement in an interview with Hezbollah’s TV channel.

The Syrian government has already received a first shipment of S-300 air defense missiles from Russia and is currently waiting for more, President Bashar Assad told Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station in an interview set to be broadcast Thursday.

"Syria has got the first batch of Russian S-300 missiles ... The rest of the shipment will arrive soon," al-Assad was quoted as saying in excerpts of the interview released Thursday morning.

The Syrian president reiterated that his army would retaliate to any Israeli attack on its territory and said his government would not stand in the way of any Arab faction operating within its territory to "liberate" the Golan Heights from Israel.

Assad also said that his government would take in the Geneva 2 conference in June, an international summit aimed at ending the ongoing civil war in Syria. The Syrian president lambasted the opposition during the interview for conditioning peace talks on his resignation and the dissipation of his regime. Despite his condemnation of the opposition's terms, Assad also voiced pessimism at any chance of such talks succeeding.

The Syrian president said his army has won crucial victories on the field and that the cards were clearly in their favor in the ongoing civil war.

He did not deny Hezbollah's role in fighting alongside his army, but said the Syrian army was leading the battle.

"There are groups from Hezbollah on Lebanon's border areas, butthe Syrian army is commanding and fighting the war against the armed groups in Syria," al-Assad added in the interview. "The (Syrian) army will go ahead with the battle until terrorists are eliminated," he added, referring to rebels fighting to oust him.

He also told Al-Manar that there were more than 100,000 combatants of various nationalities fighting on Syrian territory.

The Syrian president's interview with Al-Manar comes two days after Russia confirmed plans to sell the surface-to-air defense missile systems to Assad's regime, and after the European Union lifted its arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.

Israel said it would look into reports that the first shipment had actually arrived. "I have no information beyond what has been reported, whichwe are looking into," an official told Reuters.

Israel, which has made veiled threats to prevent S-300 missiles from becoming operational in Syria, has lobbied the Russians against the sale and said on Tuesday that shipments had not yet been made. Israel's airspace would be within range of the system if it is deployed in Syria, a northern neighbor.

On Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem declared that Syria "will retaliate immediately" if Israel strikes Syrian soil again. Earlier this month, Israeli warplanes allegedly struck near the Syrian capital, Damascus, targeting purported Iranian missiles intended for Assad's ally Hezbollah.

© Read premium content from leading Israeli daily Haaretz on FRANCE 24

 

Date created : 2013-05-30

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