Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) on Friday Mofaz accused Syria and other regional states of "allowing themselves to directly threaten Israel," and added that Israel must exhibit a "tough stance" against them.

Mofaz also responded to allegations that Syria offered to place Russian missile batteries on their soil, saying "Israel cannot allow the entry of weapons that could destabilize the balance of power in the region."

Syria has denied claims that its president, Bashar Assad, asked Russia to deploy surface-to-surface missiles on its territory, Israel Radio reported on Friday.

According to media reports, Assad made the request on Thursday during talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow regarding a number of possible arms deals between the two countries.

Russia's foreign minister said after the meeting that Moscow would consider Assad's appeal for new weapon sales.

Despite the tension between Russia and the West, there is no crisis in relations between Jerusalem and Moscow, Israel believes.

Nevertheless, Israel fears Assad is trying to drag Russia and Israel into a new diplomatic crisis by emphasizing Israeli arms sales to Georgia.

On Wednesday, Medvedev called Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the first time since the former's springtime election, and discussed the Middle East situation with him.

During the phone call, Olmert asked Medvedev not to sell Syria arms that would upset the balance of power in the region, particularly advanced anti-aircraft missiles (the SA-10 and S-300). Medvedev's predecessor Vladimir Putin had made such promises.

In their meeting at Medvedev's Black Sea residence, Assad backed Russia's military action against Georgia, making Syria only the second country in the world - after Belarus - to voice public backing for Russia's operation in Georgia.

"We understand the essence of the Russian position and its military response," Assad told Medvedev at the start of their meeting. "We believe Russia was responding to the Georgian provocation."

Syria has sought the SA-10s for close to a decade, and the sale has been blocked numerous times in the past, by pressure from the U.S. and Israel. Damascus also is interested in the S-300 system. Assad said Thursday he hopes to offer Moscow the opportunity to deploy that type of missile in Syrian territory, as a counterweight to U.S. missiles in Poland.

Syria wants the missiles to counterbalance Israel's air superiority: The advanced anti-aircraft missiles would seriously hamper Israel Air Force activity over Lebanon, Syria and even Israel.

In their phone call, Medvedev invited Olmert to visit Russia, which Israeli sources interpret as a desire to preserve good relations between the countries and balance Assad's visit. Before the crisis broke out in Georgia, talks were underway for Olmert to make an official visit to Moscow, but they have been frozen.

After the meeting between Medvedev and Assad Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would consider Syria's request for new weapons, but did not say which weapons Syria seeks. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Lavrov as saying Russia is prepared to sell Syria defensive weapons that do not interfere with the strategic balance in the region.