Russia defends move to ban missile sale to Iran

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday defended Moscow's refusal to supply Iran with S-300 air defence missiles, saying such a sale would violate UN Security Council sanctions.

Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree banning supplies of the missiles and other arms to Tehran, which is engaged in a standoff with the international community over its nuclear drive.

"These supplies fall under an embargo that the (UN) Security Council has introduced and force majeure applies here," Lavrov told reporters travelling with Medvedev, who was in Beijing as part of a three-day visit to China.

Force majeure is a common clause in contracts that exempts the parties from liability if an extraordinary event beyond the control of the parties -- in this case UN sanctions -- prevents one side from fulfilling the agreement.

When asked about reports that Tehran had threatened to sue Moscow over the non-completion of the S-300 contract, Lavrov replied: "I have heard nothing about this."

Iranian lawmaker Alaeddin Borujerdi, the head of the national security and foreign affairs commission in parliament, was quoted by the IRNA official news agency on Sunday as saying Moscow could face legal action over the deal.

"If Russians refuse to deliver the S-300, it can be legally pursued and (they) will be subject to a fine," he said, adding he hoped "Russia will make good on its S-300 contract with Iran to maintain its reputation in the world."

The decree signed by Medvedev "on measures to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution 1929 from June 9, 2010" was warmly welcomed by the United States, which had long opposed the S-300 missile contract.

No S-300 missiles have been delivered to Tehran.

Iran last week branded Russia's move irrational and accused Moscow of bowing to US and Israeli pressure, state television reported.

"We are not happy to see Russians humiliated by America and the Zionist regime (in a way) that it could be said they write what is dictated to them," Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the broadcaster's website.

He said the latest UN Security Council resolution against Iran "is not clear about air defence missiles and it does not seem rational to refer to it after... months."

The UN Security Council in June adopted a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme of uranium enrichment, imposing broader military and financial restrictions on the Islamic republic.

Neither the United States nor Iran's arch-foe Israel -- the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power -- has ruled out taking military action against Iran to prevent it from acquiring an atomic weapons capability.

Tehran denies charges that its nuclear programme has military aims, insisting that its atomic ambitions are peaceful.

© 2010 AFP

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