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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Russia gets cold feet on Iran S-300 delivery?

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 11:10:33 GMT | PressTV

The S-300 surface-to-air missile system
A source familiar with Russian military ties says the delivery of the Russian S-300 air defense system to Iran is conditional.

Reports surfaced earlier in March, suggesting that Moscow might decide to postpone the delivery of the powerful S-300 surface-to-air missile system. The reports came as the US and Israel were intensely lobbying the Kremlin for anti-Iran cooperation.

Russia's Interfax news agency carried a report that cited a source familiar with the issue as saying that the Kremlin may freeze its deal to supply Iran with the sophisticated missile system.

"Such a possibility is not excluded. The question must be decided at a political level, especially as the contract was worked out on a purely commercial basis," the unnamed source said on March 10.

The source said while an $800 million contract for five S-300 systems had been signed in 2005, Moscow was not decisive on whether to deliver them.

A source in the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation cast further doubt on the future of the deal when RIA Novosti on Wednesday reported him as tying developments in the global arena to the possibility of the delivery.

The future implementation depends on the "international situation", he said.

"The S-300 systems have not yet been delivered within the framework of the contract concluded two years ago. However the contract itself will be implemented gradually," the Persian-language report carried by RIA Novosti quotes the unnamed source as saying.

The S-300 surface-to-air system, known as the SA-20 in the West, can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away. It also features high jamming immunity and is capable of simultaneously engaging up to 100 targets.

In early 2007, Iran received a reported $1bn-plus delivery of sophisticated Russian Tor-M1 air-defense systems.

Iran seeks the delivery of the sophisticated S-300 system to counter potential Israeli air strikes on its nuclear facilities.

Tehran says the only aim of its nuclear program is the civilian applications of the technology. The US, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany -- accuse the country of pursuing military purposes.

Under the allegation, Israel has repeatedly threatened to attack the country.

Western experts, however, say the defense system would rule out the possibility of Israeli air strikes on Iranian nuclear sites.

"If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.

The White House, under the rule of former President George W. Bush, sought in October 2008 to ban the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport from transacting with Iran for an alleged supply of sensitive technology to the country.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, however, brushed aside the notion, saying that the US decision was simply an attempt to sideline a successful competitor on the global arms market.

"We will continue to sell arms and military equipment exclusively to maintain the defense potential of our partners," Medvedev affirmed.

Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, then claimed that military cooperation between the Tehran government and the Kremlin "has a positive influence on stability" in the Middle East.

However, since President Barack Obama occupied the White House, he has sought to mend the strained US relations with the Kremlin and stresses that the two sides must find common approaches on a variety of issues, including Iran and its nuclear program.

The US and Israel have since been attempting to persuade Russia against delivering the S-300 system.

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