The Syrian leader defended his country's right to acquire Russian missiles to strengthen its air defences, but said that no concrete contracts would be on the agenda during his four-day state visit to Russia.

 

Israel protested earlier this month at the reported planned sale to Damascus of SA-18 surface-to-air missiles, also known as Igla, and next-generation Iskander-E missiles that could allow Syria to strike any target in Israel.

 

"These are defensive weapons, air defence, to prevent aircraft from entering our airspace," al-Asad said when asked to comment on the reported contracts, now seen in doubt because of Israeli and US pressure.


Deterrent
 

"If Israel is against us acquiring them, it's as if it was saying 'we want to attack Syria but we don't want them to protect themselves'," he told students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

 

However, al-Asad said he did not plan to discuss any weapons' sale in Moscow.

 

"When a president makes a state visit, specific questions of arms contracts are not raised. We discuss general issues of military-technical cooperation," he said.