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MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Syrian rebels are gaining ground and might win, Russia’s Middle East envoy said yesterday, in the starkest such admission from a major ally of President Bashar Al Assad in 20 months of conflict.
“One must look the facts in the face,” Russia’s state-run RIA quoted Mikhail Bogdanov as saying. “Unfortunately, the victory of the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out.”
Bogdanov, a deputy foreign minister and the Kremlin’s special envoy for Middle East affairs, said the Syrian government was “losing control of more and more territory” and Moscow was preparing to evacuate Russian citizens if necessary.
Syria has relied on war planes and helicopters to bombard rebel districts but Damascus denied accusations by US and Nato officials that it had fired Scud missiles in recent days.
The foreign ministry said the long-range missiles were not used against “terrorist groups,” a term it uses for the rebels, who now hold an almost continuous arc of territory from the east to the southwest of Damascus.
The head of Nato said he thought Assad’s government was nearing collapse and the new leader of Syria’s opposition said the people of Syria no longer needed international forces to protect them.
“The horrific conditions which the Syrian people endured prompted them to call on the international community for military intervention at various times,” said Mouaz Al Khatib, a preacher who heads Syria’s National Coalition.
Now the Syrian people have nothing to lose. They handled their problems by themselves. They no longer need international forces to protect them,” he added in the interview on Wednesday night, accusing the international community of slumbering while Syrians were killed. REUTERS