August 22, 2008 / 11:04 AM / 11 years ago

Syria denies accepting Russian missile deployment

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad (L) at the presidential residence Bocharov Ruchey outside Sochi, August 21, 2008. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria denied on Friday that it was considering hosting an advanced Russian missile system, a day after President Bashar al-Assad held talks with Russian officials about upgrading his country’s military.

Syria’s state news agency (SANA) said deployment of Iskander missiles, which Moscow says are capable of defying any missile defence, was not on the agenda of talks between Assad and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a Black Sea resort on Thursday.

“There is no truth to media reports that Syria had agreed to deploy Iskander missiles on its territory,” SANA said.

Russian media had quoted Assad as saying that Syria was ready to negotiate deployment of the surface-to-surface mid range missiles, which are also capable of reaching Israel.

Israel on Thursday said it opposes any Russian sale of long-range missiles to its arch-foe, Syria.

Syria, which has been largely isolated by the West, sees a potential for improved ties with Moscow as relations between Russia and the West worsen.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia was prepared to sell Syria “defensive weapons which are not breaking the regional balance of power”.

Lavrov was referring to Israel, which occupies the Golan Heights, has a superior military force and is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Among hardware Syria is interested in are Russia’s Pantsyr-S1 air defence missile system, the BUK-M1 surface-to-air medium-range missile system and aircraft, the Russian agency Interfax quoted a diplomat as saying.

Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; editing by Mariam Karouny

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