Moscow: Russia has sent a naval flotilla of six warships led by an anti-submarine destroyer to its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.
The source said the trip was taking place in line with the plans of military readiness of the Russian fleet. According to Interfax, the source insisted that the deployment “was not linked to the escalation of the situation in Syria”.
Meanwhile, Russia said Tuesday it wanted to host a new meeting of foreign powers concerning the Syria crisis, but stressed that the talks shouldn’t decide the fate of President Bashar Al Assad.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said the attempt made in Geneva on June 30 to save international envoy Kofi Annan’s tattered peace plan for the crisis needed to be continued with the involvement of countries such as Iran.
Bogdanov said Russia wasn’t “holding on to Assad” but defending basic international principles that prevented powerful nations from deciding the internal conflicts of smaller states. International envoy Kofi Annan is warning of a disaster if his peace plan for Syria fails but says he has received support from Iran to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Annan spoke after holding talks in Tehran on Tuesday with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. He did not specify what support Iran has offered.
Regime forces rained shells on the rebel-held central Syrian town of Rastan as violence killed 13 people across the country on Tuesday, a watchdog said.
“It really wants to make you cry,” an activist in Rastan told AFP via Skype. “We have many wounded, and there are no doctors here, only two dentists. We can’t do anything for the wounded. It’s tragic.”
Meanwhile, three people were killed when Syrian mortars hit villages in northern Lebanon on Tuesday, as violence in Syria continued to spill across the border.
Residents said they had been under fire for five hours overnight, and that there had been sporadic shelling in the area for days.
One Lebanese man was killed by the shelling, and two Syrians living in Lebanon died when they were hit by a car speeding away from an area under fire, residents told Reuters.
It was the second fatal attack in three days. Three people were killed by mortar fire from Syria at the weekend and President Michel Suleiman ordered an investigation.
Rebels in Syria’s 16-month-old uprising against President Bashar Al Assad have been operating out of border zones, and tension are high on Syria’s Lebanese and Turkish frontiers.
But Lebanon, with a history of domination by its powerful neighbour, is anxious to avoid being drawn in to the uprising, and its reaction to cross-border incidents has been more restrained than Turkey’s.
Lebanon’s cabinet on Monday approved reinforcement of the army along the Syrian-Lebanese border due to rising violence, but residents said they had yet to see an increased security presence.
In the border town of Wadi Khaled, a Reuters witness saw at least five buildings damaged, some of them set ablaze by the shelling.
Many residents of the border area are leaving their homes and heading to Lebanon’s port city of Tripoli to escape the violence, locals said.