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Middle East

Syrian army 'continues to fire Scud missiles'

NATO's top official says President Bashar al-Assad's move is "an act of desperation of a regime nearing its end".
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2012 21:41

The Syrian military has continued to fire Scud-type missiles against anti-government forces, NATO's top official said, describing the move as an act of desperation of a regime nearing its end.

Although none of the Syrian rockets hit Turkish territory, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday said the use of the medium-range ballistic rockets showed that NATO was justified in deploying six batteries of Patriot anti-missile systems in neighbouring Turkey.

The US, Germany and the Netherlands will each provide two batteries of the US-built air defense systems to Turkey.
More than 1,000 American, German and Dutch troops will man the batteries, likely from sites well inland in Turkey.

Syria's use of missiles is an act of "a desperate regime approaching collapse,"' Fogh Rasmussen said.

A week ago, US and NATO officials said the Syrians had used the ground-to-ground rockets for the first time in the nearly two-year conflict.

Damascus immediately denied the claims.

On Friday, new footage emerged purporting to show scud missiles being fired by Syrian forces.

Activists say the footage was leaked by President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Attack on military complex

Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as medium-range missiles - some capable of carrying chemical warheads. These include Soviet-built SS-21 Scarabs and Scud-B missiles, originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads.

"We wouldn't like chaos in that country [Syria]"

- Vladimir Putin, Russian president

The latest developments came as activists said that rebels attacked a base protecting a military industrial compound in the Syria’s north on Friday in efforts to capture wider areas near the border with Turkey.

At least seven rebels were reported killed in the attack on the air defence base in the town of al-Safira.

The town is home to a complex of military factories and lies just south of Aleppo, Syria's largest city and commercial hub.

The attacks are part of a push by the rebels who have been capturing army bases in and around Aleppo over the past weeks as they gain wider areas near the border with Turkey.

'Need for change'

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, said on Friday that his country does not want "chaos" in Syria.

"We will try to pursue the public order in Syria and look forward to a democratic regime in Syria," he said at a news conference closing an EU-Russia summit.

Spotlight
In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

"We wouldn't like chaos in that country," he added.

"Everyone is interested in stopping the violence and the bloodshed."

Putin for the second time in two days denied propping up the regime of  Assad and appeared to acknowledge the possibility of change, saying: "We do not advocate the government of Syria".

He insisted, however, that a solution must be found between all parties at the negotiating table to take into account the views "of all the citizens".

In Moscow, the previous day Putin said Russia was not concerned about Assad's fate but "we understand that the family has been in power for 40 years and there is a need for change".

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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