Israel concerned over possible Russia-Syria arms deal

JERUSALEM, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday expressed his concern over the possibility that Russia might deploy missiles in Syria, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cautioned such a move would destabilize the Middle East.

Such a move by Russia would jeopardize peace not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world, Israeli broadcaster Army Radio quoted Peres as saying on his 85th birthday.

The political veteran made the remarks when commenting on Israeli media reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who arrived in Russia on Wednesday on a two-day visit, offered to allow Moscow to deploy Russian surface-to-surface Iskander missiles in its territory.

"Weapons of mass destruction are less dangerous without a means for launching them, but once a launching system is developed, the situation will be terrible," Peres was quoted as saying, pointing to the northern neighbor which Israel lists as an enemy state.

Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported Assad's offer was publicized on Wednesday, the same day when the United States signed an agreement with Poland to place part of a missile defense system on the Polish soil, a move that Russia insists would endanger its security.

Also in response to this possible scenario, Livni said Russia should not agree to Syria's request for missile deployment, stressing that this could destabilize the Middle East.

"It is a mutual interest of Russia, of Israel and of the pragmatic leaders and states in the region not to send long-range missiles to Syria," local daily Ha'aretz quoted her as saying, while citing Syria's links with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah as justification.

On Wednesday night, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to affirm the ties between the two countries. Olmert's office said the two leaders talked about regional and bilateral issues and looked to advance bilateral relations.

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