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Assad warns Israel over air strikes

BEIRUT: Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast yesterday that he is "confident in victory" in his country's civil war, and warned that Damascus would retaliate in kind to any future Israeli air strike on his territory.

Assad also told the Lebanese TV station Al Manar that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts recently, but he was vague on whether this included advanced S-300 air defence systems.

The Syrian president's comments were in line with a forceful and confident message the regime has been sending in recent days, even as the international community attempts to launch a peace conference in Geneva, possibly next month.

The strong tone coincided with recent military victories in battles with armed rebels trying to topple him.

Assad's interview was broadcast as Syria's main political opposition group appeared to fall into growing disarray.

Assad said that he has been confident from the start of Syrian conflict more than two years ago that he would be able to defeat his opponents.

He portrayed the battle to unseat him as a "world war against Syria and the resistance" - a reference to the Lebanese Hizbollah, a close ally.

"We are confident and sure about victory, and I confirm that Syria will stay as it was," he said, "but even more than before, in supporting resistance fighters in all the Arab world."



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