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Confident Assad Hints at New Russian Weapons Shipment

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hinted he has received new weapons from Russia and threatened retaliation against Israel if it carries out future airstrikes in his country.

In an interview with Lebanon's Al-Manar television, Mr. Assad was vague on whether the new weapons include the advanced S-300 air defense system promised by Moscow.



"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."



Russia has not confirmed the shipment. But it vowed this week to go ahead with the transfer of the anti-aircraft missiles, saying it will help deter foreign involvement in Syria's civil war.

There were also no comments from Israel, which has threatened to use force to stop the the transfer. Israel's main civilian airport would be within the range of the S-300.



The system could also make it more difficult for Israel to carry out airstrikes in Syria. Earlier this month, Israel attacked a suspected weapons supply in Damascus it says was headed for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

A confident Mr. Assad on Thursday promised to retaliate in kind if Israel continues what he called its "repeated aggression." He also threatened renewed fighting in the Golan Heights, saying there is "clear popular pressure" in his country to open a new front there.

Echoing his government's recent statements, President Assad also expressed willingness to attend U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the opposition. But he said any resulting agreement would be subject to a referendum of the Syrian people.

Syria's main opposition group earlier Thursday said it will boycott the Geneva peace talks. Wrapping up an eight-day meeting in Istanbul, the Syrian National Coalition said talks of holding a conference are "meaningless" in light of the ongoing government offensive.

The notoriously divided opposition bloc has struggled to form a unified front to challenge Mr. Assad's government and bring an end the 26-month-long civil wan, which has killed an estimated 80,000 people.

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