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Russia to supply Syria with S-300 missile system

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Moscow, Sep 24 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad on Monday about his decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence, including providing it with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

“Both sides noted readiness for further joint efforts to achieve long-term normalization in Syria, restoration of its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity,” a Kremlin statement said, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier in the day, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will supply an S-300 air defence system and identification, friend or foe equipment to Syria within two weeks after its Il-20 surveillance plane was mistakenly downed by Syria’s S-200 system last week.

In areas adjacent to Syria over the Mediterranean, Russia will carry out radio-electronic suppression of satellite navigation, airborne radars and communications systems of combat aircraft attempting to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, Shoigu said.

The Russian Defence Ministry has said that the Il-20 plane with 15 servicemen on board was shot down by mistake on September 17 by a Syrian missile due to a simultaneous Israeli air strike that confused Syria’s S-200 air defence system.

The Israeli military rejected the accusation that its jets deliberately used the Il-20 as a shield and led to its downing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow’s decision to strengthen Syria’s air defence was made after week-long discussions between the leadership of the country and military experts.

He said that the deployment of the S-300 system in Syria does not target a third country.

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Counter-terrorism, energy security to top Indian agenda during Saudi Crown Prince visit

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) Counter-terrorism, including Pakistans role in sponsoring terrorism against India, and energy security are likely to be on top of Indias agenda for discussion during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmans visit starting on Tuesday.

India is expected to take up with the Saudi Crown Prince Pakistan’s role in the Pulwama terror attack that killed at least 49 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, informed sources said.

India has already started diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan internationally with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale briefing envoys of around two dozen nations including those of P-5 and South Asian nations about Pakistan’s footprint in the Pulwama attack.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to New Delhi Saud bin Mohammed Al-Saty has said that Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to India presents a “historic opportunity” to expand collaboration in all sectors.

Moammed bin Salman is on a three-nation diplomatic tour to Pakistan, India and China.

He will be on a two-day visit to India staring February 19 and will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. He is visiting Pakistan before coming to India.

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Saudi Crown Prince to arrive in Pakistan

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Islamabad, Feb 17 (IANS) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is set to arrive here on Sunday on his first-ever visit to Pakistan after his elevation to the position of Crown Prince in April 2017.

The Crown Prince, who is visiting Pakistan at the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, will be accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a guard of honour at the Prime Minister’s House after his arrival at Noor Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi, reports Dawn news.

A high-power delegation comprising key Ministers and some prominent businessmen, besides members of the royal family, are coming with the Crown Prince.

He was initially due to reach Pakistan on Saturday but his arrival was delayed by a day. Saudi Arabia has not cited any reason for the delay.

Pakistan has described the visit as a “historical one” which will help stabilise its crippling economy as over $21 billion worth of agreements are likely to be signed between the two countries.

Two receptions will be held in the Presidency and the Prime Minister’s House in honour of the Crown Prince during which one-on-one meetings between him and President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Khan will take place.

He will also meet Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

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Suicide attack suspects will be brought to justice, vows Rouhani

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Tehran, Feb 14 (IANS) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Thursday that the masterminds behind the deadly suicide bomb attack against the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that claimed 27 lives will be brought to justice.

At least 13 others were injured when a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying IRGC members on a highway near the city of Zahedan, located close to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, on Wednesday.

According to the semi-official news agency Fars, Jeish al-Adl, a Sunni extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Without a doubt, all perpetrators and those who ordered this vicious, flagrant act will be punished soon with the hard work of powerful security forces,” Rouhani said in a statement from the presidential office.

“This crime is another shame in the dark history of the main sponsors of terrorism at the White House, Tel Aviv and their regional agents who are making ridiculous, airy attempts for promoting Iranophobia and claiming to be fighting terrorism and creating security for the Middle East,” Rouhani added.

He offered his condolences to the relatives of the victims and wished the wounded a speedy recovery, Efe news reported.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif linked the attack to the US-organized Middle East summit in the Polish capital Warsaw.

“Is it no coincidence that Iran is hit by terror on the very day that Warsaw Circus begins… the US seems to always make the same wrong choices, but expect different results,” Zarif tweeted.

The region of Sistan-Balochistan is predominantly populated by the Baloch ethnic group, who are also present in the adjacent regions of Pakistan.

A previous attack by gunmen disguised as soldiers on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz last September killed at least 29 people, including 12 members of the IRGC.

That attack was claimed by the Islamic State terror organization.

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