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  Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Vladimir Putin has promised Ariel Sharon that he won't sign a contract to sell SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by phone that he won't sign a contract to sell SA-18 surface-to-air missiles to Syria, the daily Haaretz reported Monday. The reported promise, said to have been made by Putin on Thursday, came on the day that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad begins a four-day official visit to Russia. The paper said that Sharon had explained to the Russian leader that the arms, also called Igla missiles, risked falling into the hands of Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon, who are violently opposed to Israel. His office had said in a statement on Thursday that the Putin-Sharon phone call had centred on the situation in the Middle East, the unilateral Israeli plan of disengagement from the Gaza Strip, relations with Syria and Hezbollah "and their implications for terrorism" and the recent election of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas. The Syrian leader arrives in Moscow on Monday amid controversy over reports that Russia was ready to sell Syria, its long-time ally in the Middle East, state-of-the-art missiles capable of hitting any target in the Jewish state, reports the Middle East Online. According to BBC News, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has denied speculation that Damascus is seeking to buy Russian missiles, as he embarks on a three-day visit to Moscow. "The Russian defence minister [Sergey Ivanov] said that there was no deal and thus gave a clear answer," Mr Assad told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency. He said Iraq, Iran tensions, Middle East peace efforts and international terrorism would dominate the talks. Israel has voiced concern about a possible Russian-Syrian missile deal. Earlier this month, the Russian government insisted that it was not planning to sell powerful new missiles to Syria.
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