Russia drops plan to supply Iran with S-300 missiles
Russia has dropped plans to supply Iran with S-300 missiles because they are subject to international sanctions, a top general said on Wednesday, in the strongest confirmation yet of the leadership's intentions to put the controversial sale on ice.
"A decision has been taken not to supply the S-300 to Iran, they undoubtedly fall under sanctions," the chief of the general staff Nikolai Makarov said in an apparent reference to UN sanctions, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
"There was a decision by the leadership to stop the supply process, we are carrying it out," Makarov was quoted as saying.
Makarov however did not give a definite answer when asked whether the missile contract itself would be cancelled permanently.
"We will see, this will depend on Iran's behaviour," the Interfax news agency quoted Makarov as saying.
The UN Security Council in June adopted a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear drive, imposing broader military and financial restrictions on the Islamic republic.
Russia's support of the new round of sanctions against Tehran and its failure to deliver air defence missiles has left Iranian leaders fuming over what they see as betrayal by a trusted ally.
Iran has over the past months been announcing steady advances in its nuclear programme, in defiance of international calls for it to freeze its sensitive uranium enrichment operations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said in June that UN sanctions would not affect the S-300 contract, as that the missiles were "defensive weapons" that did not fall under the terms of the sanctions.
Russia agreed the missile deal several years ago but has never delivered the weapons amid pressure from the United States and Israel, which fear they would dramatically improve Iran's defensive capabilities.
In June, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Moscow would not sell the missiles to Iran in line with UN sanctions, a French official told reporters on condition of anonymity at the time.
An aide to President Dmitry Medvedev told AFP in June that the S-300 missile deal would likely be scrapped, but that a formal decision would come in a decree.
Analysts praised what they said was much-needed clarification on the issue after months of deliberations and often contradictory statements by unidentified officials.
"This is the first authorised comment and that's why it's important," independent military analyst Alexander Golts told AFP.
Russia's tougher line on Iran has coincided with a warming of its relations with the United States. Washington has repeatedly praised Moscow for its support in the nuclear crisis.
Makarov said he did not foresee any hurdles that could delay the ratification of a landmark US-Russia nuclear arms treaty signed earlier this year.
"The ratification may take place by the end of the year," he was quoted as saying.
The treaty -- signed by US President Barack Obama and Medvedev at an elaborate ceremony in Prague in April -- restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002.
© 2010 AFP