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Russian missiles arrive in Syria

Russian missiles arrive in Syria
Highlights

The anti-aircraft missiles may act as deterrent to Israel A Assad claims balance of power Tensions rise in the region Beirut (AP): The...

  • The anti-aircraft missiles may act as deterrent to Israel A
  • Assad claims balance of power
  • Tensions rise in the region
Beirut (AP): The Syrian president has told Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned TV station that Damascus received the first shipment of Russian air defence missiles, according to remarks released on Thursday. The Syrian army has scored major victories against rebels and now holds the balance of power in the conflict, Assad reportedly said. He is also quoted as saying Syria has received the first shipment of an advanced Russian air defence system.
syriya
Russia vowed to go ahead with sending S-300 missiles earlier this week. Meanwhile, the main opposition outside Syria said that it would not take part in peace talks while massacres continued. Speaking in Istanbul, where the Syrian National Coalition is meeting its interim head George Sabra, it said that talk of diplomatic conferences was farcical while Syrian government forces backed by the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah were carrying out heinous crimes. Assad's comment on the arrival of the long-range S-300 air defence missiles in Syria will further ratchet up tensions in the region and undermine efforts to hold UN-sponsored talks with Syria's warring sides. Israel's defence chief Moshe Yaalon said earlier this week that Russia's plan to supply Syria with the weapons is a threat and that Israel was prepared to use force to stop the delivery. The Al-Manar TV, owned by the Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, released Assad's comment on the Russian missiles through its breaking news service to clients on Thursday morning. An official at the station confirmed to the Associated Press that the remark was from the interview. The TV is to air the exclusive interview later on Thursday. On Monday, the European Union lifted an arms embargo on Syria, paving way for individual countries of the 27-member bloc to send weapons to rebels fighting to topple Assad's regime. The move raised fears of an arms race in the Middle East. Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah. It is not clear whether Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace in these attacks. But with the Russian missiles in Syria's possession, the Israeli air force's ability to act could be limited.
Assad will remain president until 2014
Beirut (AP): Syrian Foreign Minister laid out a hard line, insisting that Bashar Assad will remain Syria's president at least until elections in 2014 and might run for another term, conditions that will make it difficult for Syria's opposition to agree to UN-sponsored talks on ending Syria's civil war. Any deal reached in such talks would have to be put to a referendum, Walid al-Moallem said in a TV interview on Wednesday, introducing a new condition that could complicate efforts by the US and Russia to bring the two sides together at an international conference in Geneva, possibly next month. The wide-ranging comments by al-Moallem, a regime stalwart with decades in top positions, reflected a new confidence by Assad's government, which had seemed near collapse during a rebel offensive last summer but has scored a number of battlefield successes in recent weeks. "Our armed forces have regained the momentum," the foreign minister said. He suggested that the regime is digging in.
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