Syria receives Russian missile shipment
Beirut, May 30, 2013
Syria has already received the first shipment of an advanced Russian air defence system and will soon get the rest of the S-300 missiles, President Bashar Al-Assad was quoted as saying on Thursday.
"Syria has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets," Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Assad as saying in an interview due to be broadcast later in the day. "The rest of the shipment will arrive soon."
An interview with Assad will be released on Al Manar, a television station linked to Assad's ally, the Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.
Russia has said it would deliver the missile system to the Syrian government over Western objections, saying the move would help stabilise the regional balance.
The US, France and Israel have all called on Russia to stop the delivery.
Moscow, ally of Assad's government, appeared to grow more defiant after the European Union let its arms embargo on Syria expire earlier this week, opening up the possibility of arming the rebels battling to topple the president.
More than 80,000 people have died in Syria since peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule led to a civil war that has pitted the president's forces and his ally, Hezbollah, against Syrian rebels and a flow of Sunni Islamist militants who have come to help them from abroad.
Moscow says the lapsing of the EU embargo complicates US and Russian-led efforts to set up a peace conference between the Syrian government and its opponents, who want an immediate end to four decades of Assad family rule.
The Syrian leader said he planned to go to the "Geneva 2" conference, Al-Akhbar reported, though he was unconvinced of a fruitful outcome and said he would continue to fight militants seeking his ouster.
Officials in Israel say the S-300 could reach deep into the Jewish state and threaten flights over its main commercial airport near Tel Aviv.
Al-Akhbar said Assad also stressed ties between his forces and Hezbollah militants now openly fighting on the Syrian side of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier.
"Syria and Hezbollah are part of the same axis," Al-Akhbar quoted him as telling Al-Manar. "The Syrian army is the one fighting and leading the battles against the armed group, and this fight will continue until all those who are called terrorists are eliminated." - Reuters