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21 Aug, 2008 14:28

Syria: we’ll host Russian missile system

Syria says it’s ready to put a Russian missile system on its soil as a counterweight to U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. The offer was made during a meeting between Syrian leader Ba

Meanwhile, Moscow is considering a request from Syria for more Russian-made weapons.

It was the first meeting between the two leaders, and President Al-Assad was keen to show Syria’s support for Russia.

“We understand what is behind Russia's position … We believe this is a response to Georgian provocation. We support Moscow in this and are against any attempts to blacken Russia,” Al-Assad said.
Many expected a tit-for-tat response after the U.S. sealed a deal to deploy interceptors in Poland as a part of their missile defence system.

Ahead of the visit, there were reports that Russia might deploy a missile system in Syria, in particular, the Iskander system. It’s something Syria has been requesting for a long time. After Friday’s meeting, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is ready “to consider the offers of the Syrian government in connection to the delivery of new weapons, only for defence purposes”.

Moscow has temporarily suspended cooperation with NATO. It follows NATO’s criticism of Russia’s actions in South Ossetia and threats to shut down the NATO-Russia Council. Lavrov was clear on Russia’s course: “We are not going to slam the door on NATO. NATO could slam this door, though. Everything depends on NATO's priorities: if the priorities are absolutely supportive of Saakashvili's bankrupt regime to the detriment of partnership with Russia, then it is not our fault,” he said.
Meanwhile, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone is well under way. There will be at least 500 peacekeepers deployed in the so-called security zone near the border. The rest of the peacekeepers will remain within the de facto borders of South Ossetia. The rest of the troops in the area will return to Russia.

Russia says it’s fully committed to the six principles of the cease-fire, but, according to Lavrov, some countries are resorting to diplomatic tricks.

Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia’s two separatist regions, have again asked Moscow to recognise their independence.