Syrian army continues crack down

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

THE SYRIAN army is continuing its crack down on Nato-backed terror gangs in the north of the country.

President Assad says he’s ready to run for another term of office next year and the Russian navy is holding exercises off the Syrian coast.

Syrian troops launched a number of successful operations against terrorist hideouts in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside this week, inflicting heavy losses on the terror militias and seizing considerable amounts of ammunition and equipment.

The rebels responded by rocketing the University of Aleppo.

The blasts caused widespread destruction, scattering rubble and more than a dozen flaming cars across a wide street near a student block. The dormitory’s windows were blown out and some of its walls were blown away, revealing beds and other furniture inside. Over 87 people were killed and 160 others wounded in the attack, many of them students on their first day of exams.

This week Russian warships entered Syrian waters to take part in largescale naval exercises that will go on until Easter. The drill will involve anti-submarine, anti-ship and air defence operations in what Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called “the biggest in the history of the country.”

The entire Russian navy is being deployed on a scale not seen since the fall of the Soviet Union in exercises that will include the simulated transport of paratroopers and other marines from the mountainous northern Caucasian coast and combat training missions in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

In Moscow, a senior military spokesperson told the media that the presence of Russian marines near Syrian waters “will deter the West from deploying ground forces in Syria.” The Russian flotilla and marines are intended to be the counterweight to the six Nato Patriot missile interceptors, the US, Germany and Holland have installed on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Meanwhile UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, has drawn up yet another peace proposal which calls for a ceasefire followed by the formation of a transitional government to run the country until new elections can be held.

Brahimi did not mention President Bashar al Assad by name, but said the transitional government would have “full executive powers” and would replace the Syrian leader. But Assad says he hopes to play a role in any future transition government and he will certain stand for re-election next year Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the BBC that banning Assad from running would be against democracy.

“The president, and many other candidates who may run, will go to the people, put forward their programmes, and be elected by the people.

The ballot box will be where the future of the leadership of Syria will be decided” he declared.