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Russia

Russia Denies Its Syria Position Has Changed

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) meets with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Damascus in August 2011.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) meets with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Damascus in August 2011.
By RFE/RL
Russia has denied that one of its top diplomats said President Bashar al-Assad is losing control of Syria.

The denial comes as NATO countries moved closer to deploying Patriot missiles and hundreds of troops along Turkey's border with Syria.

Russian news agencies quoted Mikhail Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister and the Kremlin's special envoy for Middle East affairs, as conceding on December 13 that Syria's government was "progressively losing control" and that the victory of the opposition “cannot be excluded.”

But the Russian Foreign Ministry said on December 14 that Bogdanov was only citing the stance of the Syrian opposition and its foreign backers, insisting that Moscow has not changed policy on Syria.

"I want to say that we were never asleep. We haven't changed our position. And we will not change it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow.

Bogdanov’s reported assessment appeared to signal a shift in Moscow’s diplomatic stance.

Washington credited Russia with "finally waking up to the reality.”

Rebel political leader Mouaz al-Khatib said he believed Moscow was looking for ways out of its support for a lost cause.

Russia, a close ally of Assad since the uprising began in March 2011, has blocked UN efforts to press Assad to step aside and has supplied his regime with arms.

Also on December 14, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order to send two Patriot missile batteries and 400 troops to operate them to NATO-member Turkey.

Panetta signed the order shortly before arriving on an unannounced visit to Turkey to meet U.S. troops stationed at the Incirlik air base.

"We announced this morning that we are deploying two Patriot batteries here to Turkey along with the troops that are necessary to man those batteries so that we can help Turkey have the kind of missile defense that they very well need in dealing with threats that come out of Syria," Panetta told U.S. troops.

In Germany, the lower house of the parliament, the Bundestag, on December 14 backed sending up to 400 German soldiers and two Patriot missile batteries to southern Turkey.

The Netherlands is also to provide two batteries of the U.S.-built air-defense systems.

The Patriot missiles will be placed under NATO’s command and are scheduled to be operational by the end of January.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, BBC, and mid.ru
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by: Ilya
December 15, 2012 01:52
Not looking good for Assad. Too bad about all that money Putin's been sending him. Won't get any of that back. Just one more pointless expense to please the nationalists.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 15, 2012 18:15
"Not looking good for Assad", ah, Ilya :-))?? Well, it's been 20 months since Hillary Clinton started sending money to her terrorist friends in order to overthrow him - and look: Bashar is just where he was 20 months ago, whereas Hillary herself is on her way out - and she even fainted today (according to the latest info of Le Figaro). The latter is understandable: her job was to kill Bashar, but how could this representative of the nation of bankrupt loosers have ever achieved such a result :-))? This fainting is another expression of the ineptitude and helplessness of the US, and the fact that Bashar is and will remain the Syrian President is another one.
P.S. By the way, Ilya, I have not had a chance to congratulate you on the occasion of having your ... kicked by the Hamas the other month - it just took a few extra rockets to make you, guys, reconsider your Gaza policy :-)).

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