NATO says Syrian regime firing ‘Scud-style missiles’


Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - Page 6

NATO has accused the Syrian regime of firing Scud-style missiles at rebels, amid Russian criticism that the West’s “dangerous” stance risks bringing chaos to the country and beyond.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday called the Syrian army’s use of missiles against rebels an act of desperation.

“I can confirm that we have detected the launch of Scud-type missiles; we strongly regret that act,” Rasmussen said. “I consider it an act of a desperate regime approaching collapse.”

The latest launches were detected on Thursday, a source close to NATO said, and that was corroborated by an activist in the rebel-held town of Marea in Aleppo Province.

Abu Hisham said he had been awakened to “the sound of a very loud explosion. It was raining heavily and there were many clouds, so we knew it was unlikely to be aerial bombardment.”

“The first missile fell outside Marea. Had it hit the town, it would have caused a massacre. The second, my friends told me, fell outside [the nearby town of] Tel Refaat,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday denounced what he called the West’s “dangerous” stance in support of Syrian rebels seeking to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Our Western colleagues have started dividing terrorists into ‘bad’ and ‘acceptable.’ That is very dangerous,” he said in an interview with the English-language Russia Today channel.

Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s position that the Syrian people should be allowed to decide their own destiny without outside agencies seeking to help oust the regime.

“We are not in the business of regime change,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow, one of the last supporters of the al-Assad regime, wanted to avoid “chaos” in Syria, calling for political talks between all parties to take the war-torn country toward a democratic regime.

“We are interested in this because this is all very close to our borders. We really would not like to see any potential changes in Syria to lead to the chaos we are witnessing in other countries of the region,” Putin said after an EU-Russia summit in Brussels.

For the second time in two days, Putin denied propping up al-Assad’s regime and appeared to acknowledge the possibility of change, saying: “We do not advocate the government of Syria.”