Assad says Syria's received Russian advanced missiles shipment
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gives an interview to a Syrian state news channel (AFP)
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Syria received the first shipment of an advanced Russian air defense system and will soon obtain the rest of the S-300 missiles, a Lebanese daily quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying on Thursday.
"Syria has received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets,” Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar quoted Assad as saying in an interview due to be broadcast later in the day, Reuters said. “The rest of the shipment will arrive soon.”
An interview with the Syrian president will be released on Al Manar channel, owned by Muslim militant group Hezbollah, who is known to be an Assad’s ally.
Russia has said it would deliver the missile system to the Syrian government over Western objections, saying the move would help stabilize the regional balance.
The United States, 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.
Moscow says the lapsing of the EU embargo complicates U.S. 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, the United States’ main ally in the region, say the S-300 could reach deep into Israel 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.”
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