Mortar shell lands in compound of Russian embassy in Syria

No reports of casualties; Moscow continues defense of Assad, says it opposes any UN resolution threatening force against Syria.

September 22, 2013 14:13
2 minute read.
Smoke is seen rising over Damascus

Smoke is seen rising over Damascus 370 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)

BEIRUT/MOSCOW - A mortar shell landed in the compound of the Russian embassy in central Damascus on Sunday but there was no immediate report of casualties, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rebels fighting to overthrow Syria's President Bashar Assad have launched several mortar and rocket attacks in recent months into the center of the Syrian capital, where many embassies and senior Syrian officials are based.

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The Russian mission was damaged in February when a car bomb exploded nearby on a busy Damascus highway, killing 50 people. No one was wounded at the embassy, but that blast blew out windows in the building, Russian officials said.

Moscow, Assad's staunchest ally who has blocked all UN action against the Syrian dictator, continued to defend him on Sunday.

Russia on Sunday criticized what it said were Western attempts to use a Syrian chemical arms disarmament deal to seek a UN resolution threatening force against Assad's government.

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Syria has handed over information about its chemical arsenal to a UN-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious U.S.-Russia deal that averted the threat of Western air strikes.

The UN Security Council is due to give its endorsement of the deal, but Moscow and Washington are divided over how to ensure compliance with the accord. U.S. President Barack Obama has warned that he is still prepared to attack Syria, even without a UN mandate, if Assad reneges on the deal.

"They see in the US-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but as a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving (the threat of) force against the regime and shielding the opposition," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state television posted on his ministry's website.

Lavrov also said Russia, which has used its veto to block Western efforts to use the UN Security Council's clout to pressure Assad's government, was ready to send troops to Syria to ensure the safety of UN chemical weapons inspectors.

"An international presence is needed on the perimeters of the areas where the experts will work," he said. "We are willing to send our troops and military police to participate," he said. "I do not think that there is a need for a major contingent. I think military observers will be sufficient."

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