Russian missile deal unaffected by Iran sanctions: ministry

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Russia's contract to deliver S-300 air defence missiles to Iran is not affected by new UN sanctions adopted against Tehran, the foreign ministry 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 Russia would freeze the contract for air defence (DCA) missiles.

This was rejected by foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

"The resolution adopted by the Security Council against Iran contains references to arms banned for export to Iran, but I can tell you that the DCA missiles, with the exception of portable systems, do not feature on the list," he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later said the Iran sanctions would not hurt Russia's S-300 missile supplies to Iran.

The resolution notably bans the sale to Iran of eight new types of heavy weapons and applies new restrictions on Iranian investments abroad.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee on Russia's lower house of parliament, also said that while weapons sales restrictions had been expanded under the sanctions they did not include the S-300s.

"Systems of a defensive nature like the S-300 are not on this list," he told Interfax.

He said the new UN sanctions would not affect Russian and Iranian relations.

"This document has no direct consequence for Russia. It is another story if certain governments decide unilaterally to deep these sanctions," 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."

"It will be frozen," he told Interfax. "The same thing can be said about other plans for Russian-Iranian military-technical cooperation that come under the sanctions."

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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