Russian missile deal unaffected by Iran sanctions: Lavrov

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UN sanctions will not hurt Russia's S-300 missile supplies to Iran nor the states' nuclear cooperation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday after claims the deal would be frozen.

The UN Security Council adopted Wednesday a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear drive, imposing broader military and financial restrictions on the Islamic republic.

A source in the service that supervises Russian arms sales told the Interfax news agency earlier Thursday the sanctions meant Moscow would freeze the contract to deliver air defence (DCA) missiles to Tehran.

But Lavrov, who was accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev on a visit to Uzbekistan, said the deal was still on.

"As far as military-technical cooperation is concerned, the resolution introduces limits to cooperation with Iran on offensive weapons and defensive weapons do not fall under these limits," Lavrov told reporters.

Lavrov also said Moscow was in talks to build more nuclear reactors for the Islamic republic, and that the fresh sanctions would not affect Russia's economic cooperation with Tehran.

"We have secured absolute protection for all the principally important channels of trade and economic cooperation which exist between Russia and Iran," he said.

"The resolution does not put up any barriers to these ties, including not only the completion of the Bushehr project but also the construction of any number of new light water reactors such as the Bushehr type."

"Our Iranian partners and us have such plans."

Russia is helping Iran build its first nuclear power plant, which is set to come online by the end of this summer.

Foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko earlier said the DCA missiles were exempt from the Security Council resolution, which notably bans the sale to Iran of eight new types of heavy weapons and applies new restrictions on Iranian investments abroad.

"I can tell you that the DCA missiles, with the exception of portable systems, do not feature on the list," he said.

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.

Its failure to deliver the missiles has disappointed Iran's Islamic leadership and become a major sticking point in once strong bilateral ties.

The unidentified source in the Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation (FSVTS), which supervises Russian arms sales, said earlier: "Naturally, the contract for the delivery to Tehran of the S-300 air defence missile systems will be frozen."

Russian defence expert Ruslan Pukhov, director of the centre for strategic and technical analysis, also said: "Of course, it's now impossible to talk about this contract being realised."

Pukhov said Russia would also no longer be able to provide after-sales service for the 29 TOR-M1 short-range surface-to-air missiles than Russia delivered to Iran in early 2007.

The TOR-M1 sale, estimated to be worth 700 million dollars, delighted Iran's military but was slammed at the time as inappropriate by the United States.

The S-300 sale is particularly controversial as Western powers fear Iran would use the sophisticated systems to protect its most sensitive nuclear sites against an aerial attack and inflict heavy casualties on the enemy.

Analysts and diplomats have suggested that the delivery of the weapons so worries Israel that the Jewish state could launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran if it has intelligence that Russia was to deliver them.

© 2010 AFP

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