Syria to discuss arms with Russia

Arms sales trip coincides with US-Poland signing of missile deal.

    Moscow and Damascus are preparing deals involving anti-tank missile systems [Reuters]

    "Of course, military and technical co-operation is the main issue. Weapons purchases are very important," al-Assad said.

    "We should speed it up. Moreover, the West and Israel continue to put pressure on Russia."

    Al-Assad is scheduled to meet Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, on Thursday.

    Long-time partner

    A diplomatic source in Moscow said that Russia and Syria were preparing deals involving anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems.

    "Damascus is Moscow's long-standing partner in military co-operation and we are expecting to reach an agreement in principle on new weapons deals," the source said.

    Syria is also interested in Russia's Pantsyr-S1 Air defence missile systems, BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system, military aircraft and other hardware, the source said.

    Russia's military said this week that Israel supplied military vehicles and explosives to Georgia and helped train its army.

    Israel says it does not supply arms to other countries as a government, but that private firms sell equipment and training with defence ministry approval.

    Al-Assad, whose army is largely equipped with Russian-designed hardware, said Israel's role would only encourage countries such as Syria to co-operate with Russia.

    "Everyone is now aware of Israel's role and its military consultants in the Georgian crisis," al-Assad told Kommersant.

    "And if before in Russia there were people who thought these forces can be friendly then now I think no one thinks that way."

    Russia criticised

    Western countries and Nato have criticised Russia over its military action in Georgia this month.

    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said Russia was turning into an outlaw in the conflict and accused Moscow of targeting civilians in Georgia.

    The conflict started when Georgia tried to reimpose control over the breakaway, pro-Russian South Ossetia region earlier this month.

    Russia responded with a counter-attack that overwhelmed Georgian forces.

    Russia then moved troops beyond South Ossetia and a second separatist region, Abkhazia, and deep into Georgian territory.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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