Israel Warns Russia on Iran Arms Sale

Turkish Weekly
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Voicing extreme concern over Russia's recent sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, senior diplomatic and defense officials warned Moscow Tuesday that the deal could have serious security implications that would even "get back to Russia."

Senior officials in Jerusalem said they "were not pleased" with the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles, but that Russia was a sovereign country and they could not intervene. They did, however, issue a warning: "We hope they understand that this is a threat that could come back to them as well."

Earlier Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Moscow had sent air defense missiles to Teheran, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite US complaints. Ivanov did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered.

"We have delivered short-range Tor-M1 missiles to Iran in accordance with the contract," Ivanov told reporters.

The Tor-M1 is an advanced anti-aircraft system that can identify up to 48 targets and fire at two targets simultaneously, at altitudes of up to 6,000 meters.

Defense officials predicted the systems would be used to defend Iran's nuclear facilities, particularly the uranium enrichment center at Natanz. The officials said that while the missiles were advanced and "highly-capable," the Israel Air Force was "well-trained" and knew how to deal with multiple and varied threats.

Russian officials previously said Moscow would supply 29 of the sophisticated missile systems to Iran under a $700 million contract signed in December 2005, according to Russian media reports.

"If the Iranian leadership has a desire to purchase more defensive weapons, we would do that," Ivanov said, without elaborating.

The United States called on all countries last year to stop all arms exports to Iran, as well as end all nuclear cooperation with it, to pressure Teheran to halt uranium enrichment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel "would be concerned at any arms sales to the extremist regime in Teheran, a regime that has already been sanctioned by the international community because of its ongoing and flagrant violations of UN Security Council resolutions."

Russian officials said the missiles were purely defensive weapons with a limited range, and argued that the Tor-M1 deal, involving conventional weapons, did not violate any international agreements.

"We are developing military-technical cooperation with Iran based on international law," they said.

Russian media have reported previously that Moscow had conducted talks on selling even more powerful long-range S-300 air defense missiles to Teheran, but Russian officials have denied that. Moscow already has a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran's first.

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