Big-power strategic alliances shift as result of Georgia conflict
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor
"....President Bashar al-Assad had flirted with the West of late and was a guest of honour at France's Bastille Day parade last month. Before the Georgia war, the West had high hopes of prising him away from Syria's key ally Iran, which the US accuses of supporting Islamic militants.
Those hopes were dashed when Mr Assad discussed an arms deal with President Dmitry Medvedev. A diplomatic source in Moscow said the leaders were preparing deals involving anti-aircraft and anti-tank missile systems.
Mr Assad issued a clear message of support for Russia's military crackdown in Georgia, which began after Georgian forces attempted to rein in the separatist territory of South Ossetia. "We understand the essence of the Russian position and its military response," Mr Assad told Mr Medvedev. "We believe Russia was responding to the Georgian provocation."
Washington and the other 26 Nato members have condemned Russia's "excessive" retaliation, which took Russian troops deep into Georgia proper. Speaking at an emergency meeting of Nato foreign ministers on Tuesday, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, warned Russia against attempting to redraw the lines of the Cold War through stamping out by force Georgia's bid for Nato membership.
However, Mr Assad's talks in Sochi appeared to be a direct rebuff to Ms Rice......"