Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:19 am (KSA) 21:19 pm (GMT)

Russia says Iran sanctions don't bar missile deal

Russia might freeze a contract to sell Iran S-300 missile systems (File)
Russia might freeze a contract to sell Iran S-300 missile systems (File)

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that new U.N. sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program did not oblige Moscow to scrap a controversial deal to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Iran.

The U.N. Security Council's adoption -- with Kremlin support -- of a fourth round of sanctions against Iran raised fresh questions over the future of Russia's contract to sell S-300 missiles to Tehran, a foe of the United States and Israel.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko spoke after the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Russian arms industry source as saying Moscow would freeze the S-300 contract because of the sanctions adopted on Wednesday.

 Air defense weapons, with the exception of portable missile systems, are not included in the U.N. registry of conventional weapons which are mentioned by the resolution on Iran 
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko

"The U.N. Security Council decision is binding for all countries and Russia is no exception," Interfax quoted the source as saying. "Naturally, the contract to deliver S-300 missile systems will be frozen."

But Nesterenko said that portable missile systems like shoulder-launched weapons were the only air defense weapons whose sale to Iran would be banned under the sanctions.

"Air defense weapons, with the exception of portable missile systems, are not included in the U.N. registry of conventional weapons which are mentioned by the resolution on Iran," he said.

The Kremlin's move toward support for new sanctions against Iran has been accompanied by repeated assurances from Russian officials that the measures would not affect the S-300 deal.

S-300 deal

 The consequences would be catastrophic in terms of the radicalization of the Islamic world and the destabilization of the region 
Russian PM Vladimir Putin

Diplomats in Moscow had said Russia wanted to keep the deal in reserve as a bargaining chip with Tehran and Western powers trying to rein in Iran's nuclear activity, which they say is aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.

A U.N. resolution outlawing the S-300 contract would be a significant concession by Moscow to the West and would be bound to further sour Russian ties with Tehran, which has accused Moscow of foot-dragging on delivering the missiles.

In Washington, Republican U.S. Senator Jon Kyl criticized the U.N. sanctions resolution on Wednesday for excluding the S-300 deal and Russia's construction of Iran's first nuclear power plant near Bushehr.

Russia has worked hard to water down successive rounds of sanctions against Iran, saying punishments rarely work.

But Moscow has been dismayed by Tehran's failure to disclose full details about its nuclear program and diplomats say privately that Kremlin leaders have been burned several times while trying to get Iranian leaders to cooperate.

President Barack Obama assiduously courted Russian support for the new sanctions, and U.S. officials have pointed to Moscow's backing as a positive result of Obama's "reset" aimed at improving long-strained ties.

But Russia has repeatedly warned of the dangers of any military attack on Iran, a point underlined by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this week.

"This would lead to a massive tragedy," Putin told French reporters before a visit to Paris. "The consequences would be catastrophic in terms of the radicalization of the Islamic world and the destabilization of the region."

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