News / Europe

Conflicting Views Surface Over Whether Russia to Sell Missiles to Iran

Russia's Foreign Ministry claimed that new United Nations sanctions against Iran, over its alleged nuclear program, do not oblige Moscow to scrap a controversial deal to deliver surface-to-air missiles to Tehran. Thursday's announcement came before an anonymous Kremlin official today, claimed that the newly agreed upon sanctions prohibit the weaponry sale.

At a briefing with reporters, on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said that air-defense missiles are not on the list of weaponry that is banned, by U.N. sanctions, from being sold to Iran.

He says that Wednesday's U.N. resolution on Iran contained references to particular kinds of weapons. He says that air defense weapons, with the exception of portable missiles systems, are not included in the U.N. registry of conventional weapons that were mentioned by the yesterday's resolution on Iran.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the state Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed that sentiment on Russia's state-run, English language television channel, Russia Today.

"The resolution introduces new limitations in the cooperation with Iran and these limitations concern the bank operations, the deliveries of certain dual technologies, which are related to the non-proliferation regime; and they concern the deliveries of weapons to Iran, but weapons of a very certain kind, offensive weapons; which means that the military cooperation between Russia and Iran doesn't correspond to these newly introduced limitations," he said.

Despite the announcements from Russia's Foreign Ministry and the state Duma, one anonymous Kremlin official, is being quoted by Russian news agencies, as saying that the planned sale of the S-300s is not possible, saying, " the S-300 falls under those sanctions."

The source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Uzbekistan, said, "this type of weapon cannot be delivered to Iran." Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is attending the conference, along with other world leaders from China. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boycotted the discussions after the new U.N. sanctions against Tehran were announced earlier this week.

In 2007, Russia agreed to sell the S-300s to the Islamic Republic after the Kremlin sold its TOR M-1 close range surface-to-air missile defense system to Tehran for an estimated $700 million. Many analysts say the S-300s were meant to compliment weapons with longer-range capabilities. But, despite the Kremlin's promise to deliver the weapons, it has failed to do so.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the United States acknowledged that the latest U.N. sanctions against Iran didn't prohibit the sale of the S-300s and praised Russia on its restraint for not delivering the weapons.

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