Assad says Syria received Russian missile shipment

A Shi'ite anti-government protester holds up a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria, in Sanaa May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
A Shi’ite anti-government protester holds up a poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration against Israeli air strikes in Syria, in Sanaa May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Syria has received the first shipment of an air defense system from Russia, President Bashar al-Assad said, sending a signal of military strength days before an EU arms embargo on the war-torn country lapses.

“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 on Thursday.

More of the missiles would arrive soon, he was quoted as saying.

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.

A staunch ally of the Assad government, Moscow has appeared to grow more defiant since the European Union let its arms embargo on Syria expire, opening up the possibility of the West arming the rebels battling to topple the president. The embargo lapses on June 1.

The United States, France and Israel have all called on Russia to stop the missile delivery.

An interview with Assad will be released on Thursday on Al Manar, a television station linked to Assad’s ally, the Shi’ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah.

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 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 the militants.

THREATS AGAINST ISRAEL

Officials in Israel, the United States’ main ally in the region, 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.”

Syria sits along the faultlines of several regional and ethnic conflicts, and violence in the country is increasingly seeping across its borders.

Israel, wary of any Syrian weapons being sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon, has already launched three air strikes against Damascus to stop suspected transfers.

A recent string of strikes in the capital Damascus, which shook the entire city, stoked an angry reaction from Syria. State media outlets said Syria would respond to any further attacks, and would also allow militant groups to attack Israel from a shared border on the Golan Heights.

Israel captured much of Syria’s Golan Heights in a 1967 regional war and occupies the territory today, but Assad and his father, the deceased president Hafez al-Assad, had kept the border quiet for decades.

“The Syrian government will not stand in the way of any Syrian groups that want to wage a war of resistance to liberate the Golan,” Assad was quoted as saying in the upcoming interview.

Hezbollah has stated it would be willing to support groups that chose to launch operations from the Golan.

Israel has become particularly wary of the S-300 shipments. Its defense minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday, however, that the shipments were not yet on their way.

Sources close to the Russian weapons export monopoly Rosoboronexport said last year that an earlier agreed S-300 deal had been frozen due to concerns over violence in Syria. But one of the sources said Syria had already paid 20 percent of the contract price.

Earlier this month, Israel was reported to have told Washington that Syria had begun payments for a $900 million purchase of S-300s, with an initial deliver due within three months.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…