TEHRAN, Iran – Iranian officials said Wednesday that they have taken delivery of advanced Russian air defense missile systems — weapons intended, according to one Russian news agency, to defend Tehran's major nuclear facilities.
Announcement of the delivery of the Tor-M1 mobile missile launchers came as Iran launched three days of military maneuvers, its first since the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions against Iran on Dec. 23.
"We have had constructive defense transactions with Russia and we purchased Tor M-1 missiles that were recently delivered to us," the official Web site of Iranian state television quoted Minister of Defense Mostafa Mohammad Najjar as saying.
Najjar did not say how many missiles were delivered or when they arrived. Previously Moscow said it would supply 29 of the mobile surface-to-air missile systems to Iran under a $700 million contract signed in December 2005, Russian media has reported.
According to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency, the weapons were expected to be used to protect major government and military installations such the nuclear facilities at Isfahan, Bushehr, Tehran and in eastern Iran.
ITAR-Tass on Tuesday quoted Sergei Chemezov, the head of the country's state-run weapons exporter as saying that the TOR-M1 missiles had been delivered before the end of December 2006.
It is not clear whether the sale was completed before the Security Council vote. Russian officials have repeatedly said the sale would not violate any international obligations.
The United States last year called for a halt to international arms exports to Iran, and for an end to nuclear cooperation with Iran to pressure it to stop uranium enrichment. Israel has also criticized arms deals with Iran.
Iran denies U.S. accusations that it is using its nuclear power program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. On Monday, Tehran conducted missile tests and said it had barred 38 United Nations nuclear inspectors from entering the country.
Separately, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday signed an agreement with India to jointly produce fighter jet engines and develop a new military transport plane.
The agreements were signed on the eve of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to India, which is expected to focus heavily on expanding military ties between the two nations, allies since the Cold War era.
Russia aims to retain its traditional position as the chief weapons supplier to the Indian military, despite growing Western competition.
"The development of a close and trusting relationship with India is a top priority for Russia's foreign policy," Ivanov said after the signing of the agreements.
His Indian counterpart, A. K. Antony, hailed the "cordial, productive and mutually beneficial" military ties between the two countries.
India has bought more than $30 billion of Soviet and Russian arms since the 1960s, and it has ranked alongside China in recent years as a top customer for Russia's weapons industry.