Thursday, May 30, 2013

Syria has received first shipment of S-300 missiles according to Lebanese media

English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...
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Assad says Syria received Russian missile shipment - Lebanese media

Syria has received the first shipment of a sophisticated air defence system from Russia, President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying, sending a signal of military strength days before an EU arms embargo on the country lapses.

Russia had promised delivery of the S-300 missile system to the Syrian government despite Western objections, saying the move would help stabilise the regional balance at a time of insurgency in Syria waged by Western-backed rebels.

Moscow is a staunch ally of Assad and it has appeared to grow more defiant since the European Union let its arms embargo on Syria expire as of June 1, opening up the possibility of the West arming the Syrian rebels.

"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.

A source close to Russia's Defence Ministry said there had been a "bank transfer" in connection with the S-300 transaction but that Russian banks were becoming increasingly nervous about dealing with Assad.

"There were some problems with payments because big Russian banks were scared of dealing with Assad, but there was a bank transfer," the source said. "There are also not big banks and banks that are not based in Moscow. Beyond the down payment there was almost certainly a second payment, maybe a third."

Last year, a source close to Russia's weapons export monopoly Rosoboronexport said Syria had paid 20 percent of the contract price, but that the S-300 deal was frozen because of the country's civil war.

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

More than 80,000 people have been killed in Syria since peaceful protests against four decades of Assad family rule morphed into a civil war, pitting 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 expiry 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 demand an immediate end to Assad family rule.

Read more from Reuters here.

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