MOSCOW – Russia has fulfilled a contract to sell air defense missiles to Iran, Russian news agencies quoted the head of the country's state-run weapons exporter as saying Tuesday.
Russia fulfilled its contract obligations and "completed in full the delivery of Tor M-1 missiles to Iran," ITAR-Tass quoted Rosoboronexport chief Sergei Chemezov as saying in Bangalore, India, where he was on a visit along with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Defense Ministry officials have 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.
Ivanov said last week that at least some of the missiles had been sent, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite U.S. complaints. At the time, however, a ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject said not all the systems contracted for had been delivered. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy.
The United States called on all countries last year to stop all arms exports to Iran, as well as ending all nuclear cooperation with it to put pressure on Tehran to halt uranium enrichment activities. Israel has also severely criticized arms deals with Iran.
Russian officials say that the missiles are purely defensive weapons with a limited range and argue that the Tor-M1 deal, involving conventional weapons, does not violate any international agreements.
Speaking about other sensitive potential weapons deals, Chemezov said that talks with Syria on the possible sale of short-range anti-aircraft missile systems are bogged down over Syria's desire for a specific type of missile, and another official said Moscow is not providing the Palestinians with military equipment because of tension among Palestinian factions, Russian news agencies reported.
Chemezov said a potential contract to provide Syria with Strelets missile launche system had not yet been signed. "The talks are difficult," Interfax quoted him as saying, adding that the Syrians want the systems to be fitted with Igla missiles "but we are not agreeing to that."
Israel and the United States are particularly concerned about portable, shoulder-fired missiles such as the Igla, which they fear will fall into terrorist hands and be used to try to bring down commercial jets.
The head of the Russian Defense Ministry's international cooperation department, Anatoly Mazurkevich, said that Russia is "refraining from supplies of any weapons or military technology to the Palestinian administration" due to political tension among the Palestinians," Interfax reported.
During a Middle East visit in 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to provide Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas with equipment to help maintain order, but vowed to coordinate any such assistance with Israel. At the time, Palestinian officials said Russia would provide two helicopters for the transport of Abbas and that talks on the possible supply of 50 armored personnel carriers would continue.