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Syria: Assad vague on delivery of Russian missiles

Associated Press
FILE - This Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009 file photo shows Syrian President Bashar Assad during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unseen, at the presidency in Tehran, Iran. Assad is quoted by a Lebanese TV as saying the first shipment of Russian air defense missiles has arrived in his country. Al-Manar TV, owned by the militant Hezbollah group, is to air an exclusive interview with Assad later Thursday, May 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)
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BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a TV interview broadcast Thursday that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts recently, but was vague on whether this included advanced S-300 air defense systems.

Assad's actual comments differed from excerpts the TV station conducting the interview had sent to reporters in a text message on Thursday morning.

In that message, the Al-Manar station owned by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah quoted Assad as saying Syria had already received a first shipment of such missiles. The Associated Press called Al-Manar after receiving the text message, and an official at the station said the message had been sent based on Assad's comments.

In the interview, Assad was asked about the S-300s, but his answer was general.

He said that Russia's weapons shipments are not linked to the Syria conflict. "We have been negotiating with them about different types of weapons for years and Russia is committed to Syria to implement these contracts," he said.

"All we have agreed on with Russia will be implemented and some of it has been implemented recently, and we and the Russians continue to implement these contracts," he said.

Assad also said that his forces will respond to any future Israeli strike on his country.

Israel struck near the Syrian capital of Damascus earlier this month. Israeli officials said at the time they were targeting suspected shipments of advanced missiles purportedly intended for Hezbollah, a Syria ally.

Asked whether Syria would respond to such strikes, Assad said: "We have told countries that we will respond to any strike with a similar strike." He says that the manner of the response "depends on the circumstance and timing" of the attack.

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