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Russia Delays Arms Delivery to Iran

Russia is delaying delivery of its S-300 air-defense system to Iran and is also calling for Tehran to adhere to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines for enrichment of nuclear fuel. The moves follow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's two-day visit to Moscow.

The Interfax News Agency quotes the deputy director of Russia's Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, Alexander Fomin, as saying delivery of the S-300 air defense system to Iran has been delayed by technical problems.

Fomin, whose service controls Russian arms exports, made the comment during a defense exposition in New Delhi. He did not indicate the nature of the technical problems or how long repairs would take.

As recently as Sunday, the deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, Vladimir Nazarov, said the S-300 contract must be implemented. It was signed in 2005.

Israel and the United States have opposed the sale of the system, which Iran could use to defend a possible attack against its nuclear facilities.

Announcement of the delay was made a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow. The Israeli leader told Russia's Kommersant business daily he would not confirm whether he discussed delivery of any specific weapons systems in his talks with President Dmitri Medvedev.

The S-300 is a Soviet-era surface-to-air system designed to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles. Independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer told VOA the missile would complement the longer-range S-200 and the TOR M1 system that operates at medium to very low altitudes.

Felgenhauer says the fact that Iran does not have the S-300 means it has a big hole in its air-defense system, which makes it impossible to defend against an attack, even by Israel.

Tel Aviv is concerned that an Iranian nuclear weapon could pose a direct threat to Israel.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reminded Iran it should stop its nuclear enrichment activity in accordance with a U.N. Security Council resolution. Lavrov, currently on a tour of Latin America, also urged Tehran to accept an international offer to provide fuel for its nuclear-research reactors.

Lavrov says the International Atomic Energy Agency proposed a plan in October of last year with France, the United States and Russia that would provide fuel for Iran's research reactor, because its current supply is being used up.

In Moscow, Prime Minister Netanyahu called for crippling sanctions against Iranian imports and exports, including such refined oil products as gasoline.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said the international community must be certain Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. She added that if such obligations are not fulfilled, no one can rule out the use of sanctions against Iran.