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Syria conflict:Rebels target strategic sites as Assad fires scud misiles Last Updated : 22 Dec 2012 12:02:21 PM IST Syria conflict:Rebels target strategic sites as Assad fires scud misiles
Syria's rebels stepped up attacks on strategic sites including a sprawling military complex in the country's north, while reports emerged that President Bashar Assad's forces continued to fire scud missiles at rebel areas.
President Vladimir Putin said today that Russia isn't a defender of Syrian President Bashar Assad and wants to see a democratically elected government, but held his ground on his stance that peace in Syria can only be achieved through talks.
Putin's statement at the end of talks with EU leaders in Brussels appears to be part of Russia's efforts to distance itself from its old ally, who has been weakened by opposition victories on the battleground and increasing international isolation.
But Putin made no indication that Moscow could change its stance and stop blocking international sanctions against the Syrian regime. "We aren't a defender of the current Syrian leadership,"Putin said.
NATO has accused the Syrian regime of firing Scud-style missiles at rebels, amid Russian criticism that the West's "dangerous" stance risks bringing chaos to the country and beyond.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday called the Syrian army's use of missiles against rebels an act of desperation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told European leaders that Russia does not seek to protect Assad but that only a negotiated solution can end the conflict an outcome that looks unlikely as rebels make gains across the country.
While few observers expect Syria's 21-month-old conflict to end soon, most say steady rebel advances appear to be tipping the balance in favour of those fighting to topple Assad's regime.
Activists reported rebel attacks on strategic government sites in northern Syria yesterday, showing rebel efforts to cut government supply lines, free up roads and seize arms from government bases.
An activist in the town said the complex contains military factories, a scientific research centre that produces chemical weapons as well as an air defence and an artillery base. Rebels seized the artillery base earlier this week and have been trying to seize the air defence base, said Hussein,who gave only his first name for fear of retribution.
The town's proximity to the facilities has cost it dearly,he said. Government airstrikes often target civilian areas,and more than two-thirds of the town's residents have fled,fearing the regime will use chemical weapons.
"We are scared that they will be blown up or that the regime will use them in revenge on the town," he added.Bilal Saab, head of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, confirmed that the Al-Safira complex houses a chemical weapons production facility but said it is unclear if such weapons have been stored there ready for use, or if rebels would even be able to use such weapons.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven rebels were killed in clashes in the area yesterday. It said nearly two dozen more died in a government airstrike earlier this week after they captured a military warehouse.
Activists also said rebels had launched attacks on a number of military targets near the central city of Hama.
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