Syrian President Bashar Assad has said in an interview that he is "confident in victory" in his country's civil war, and he warned that Damascus would retaliate in kind to any future Israeli air strike on his territory.
Assad also told the Lebanese TV station Al-Manar that Russia has fulfilled some of its weapons contracts recently, but he was vague on whether this included advanced S-300 air defence systems.
The Syrian president's comments were in line with a forceful and confident message the regime has been sending in recent days, even as the international community attempts to launch a peace conference in Geneva, possibly next month. The strong tone coincided with recent military victories in battles with armed rebels trying to topple him.
Assad's interview was broadcast as Syria's main political opposition group appeared to fall into growing disarray.
The international community had hoped the two sides would start talks on a political transition. However, the opposition group, Syrian National Coalition, said earlier on Thursday that it would not attend a conference, linking the decision to a regime offensive on the western Syrian town of Qusair and claiming that hundreds of wounded people were trapped there.
Assad said he has been confident from the start of the Syria conflict more than two years ago that he would be able to defeat his opponents.
"Regarding my confidence about victory, had we not had this confidence, we wouldn't have been able to fight in this battle for two years, facing an international attack," he said. Assad portrayed the battle to unseat him as a "world war against Syria and the resistance" - a reference to the Lebanese Hezbollah, a close ally. "We are confident and sure about victory, and I confirm that Syria will stay as it was," he said, "but even more than before, in supporting resistance fighters in all the Arab world."
Taking a tough line, he also warned that Syria would strike back hard against any future Israeli air strike. Earlier this month, Israel had struck near Damascus, targeting suspected shipments of advanced weapons purportedly intended for Hezbollah. Syria did not respond at the time.
Assad said he has informed other countries that Syria would respond next time. "If we are going to retaliate against Israel, this retaliation should be a strategic response," he said.
Russia's S-300 missiles would significantly boost Syria's air defenses and be a game-changer, but Assad was unclear about whether Syria has received a first shipment.