S-300 missiles
Photo: AP

Assad: We received 1st shipment of Russian S-300 missiles

In interview with Hezbollah TV station, Syrian president says next shipment of anti-aircraft missiles due to arrive 'soon'; states his government would not stand in way of groups 'that will want to fight for liberation of Golan'

Syrian President Bashar Assad told Al-Manar that his country has already received the first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia.


During the interview with Hezbollah's television network, which will be aired in full Thursday evening, the embattled Syrian leader said the next shipment is due to arrive "soon."


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Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar published excerpts from the interview, in which Assad reiterated his foreign minister's warning and said "the Syria army will retaliate immediately to another Israeli strike in Syrian territory."



Assad also clarified that his government would not stand in the way of Syria groups "that will want to fight for the liberation of the Golan (Heights)."


Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that the S-300 missile shipment "is a threat, and I can testify that the deal is not making headway. The shipments have not left yet. Let's hope they won't, and if they do, we'll know how to act."


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Video: Reuters


The US State Department expressed firm opposition on Tuesday to Russia's plan to transfer S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. "We think that's a mistake" said Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell in a briefing, "they've described it as fulfilling existing contracts... We're going to continue to work with them."


בעורף האויב: מקיין בסוריה (צילום: רויטרס)

McCain in south Turkey with US troops before entering Syria (Photo: Reuters)


White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said in regards to the advanced missiles that "on the matter of Russian arm sales, we've made clear in the past and made clear again our firm belief that providing arms to the Assad regime does not bring us closer to the political transition that Syria deserves."


Israel has been trying to prevent the transfer of the advanced S-300 missiles to Syria. Earlier this month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Putin’s residence in Sochi in an effort to block the arms deal, but shortly after the meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would remain committed to previously signed arms deal "regarding agreements pertaining to aerial defense weapons."


On Tuesday Russia's deputy foreign minister said Moscow reserves the right to provide Syria with state-of-the art air defense missiles, seeing it as a key deterrent against foreign intervention in the country


בשאר אסד. יתמודד בבחירות בשנה הבאה? (צילום: EPA)

'Next missile shipment coming soon.' Assad (Photo: EPA)


Sergei Ryabkov wouldn't say whether Russia has shipped any of the long-range S-300 air defense missile systems, but added that Moscow isn't going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.


According to Al-Akhbar, during the interview Assad condemned Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for supporting and funding the rebels. He claimed some 100,000 fighters from Arab and other countries have entered Syria and are backed by Turkey, Qatar and the Saudis. The president said Syria has agreed in principle to take part in the planned peace talks in Geneva, but it did not appear he was convinced they would yield any significant results.


Meanwhile, the military chief of the main umbrella group of Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, has accused Hezbollah fighters of "invading" Syria in a BBC interview.


Gen. Salem Idris claimed that more than 7,000 fighters of the Lebanese Shiite movement were taking part in attacks on the rebel-held town of Qusair.


Gen. Idris made an emotional appeal to Western powers on the BBC World Service's Newshour program, saying: "We are dying. Please come and help us."


He appealed for more weapons "to defend our citizens" and said the FSA was fielding fewer than 1,500 fighters in the fight for Qusair, armed only with light weapons.


More than 50,000 residents were trapped in the town and a "massacre" would occur if it fell, he added.


US Senator John McCain said on Wednesday, two days after meeting with rebels in Syria, that he is confident the US can send weapons to fighters in Syria without the risk they will fall into the wrong hands.


"We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people," McCain said on CNN's program "Anderson Cooper 360."


McCain, a Republican, is an outspoken advocate for US military aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and has angrily denounced Democratic President Barack Obama - McCain's opponent in his failed 2008 presidential race - for shying away from deeper US involvement in the conflict, which has claimed 80,000 lives.


Critics of some lawmakers' push to arm the rebels have expressed concerns that weapons could end up in the hands of militants who might eventually end up using them against the United States or its allies.


But McCain said such radical fighters make up only a small part of the rebels forces.


For example, he said, Syria's Islamist al-Nusra Front, identified as an alias of al-Qaeda in Iraq, accounts for only about 7,000 of the 100,000 fighters battling the government of Assad.


"Every single day, more and more extremists flow in... "They're flowing in all the time, these extremists. But they still do not make up a sizeable portion," the Arizona senator said.


AP, Reuters contributed to the report



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פרסום ראשון: 05.30.13, 08:46
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