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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Russia defends missile sale to Iran

The Russian defense minister on Wednesday defended Moscow's deal to supply air defense missiles to Iran, saying they were purely defensive weapons with a limited range.

"I wish to underline that these systems cannot be used in offensive operations," Sergei Ivanov told Russia Today television in an interview broadcast early Wednesday. "Secondly, they have a limited use as they are capable of protecting a small part of the Iranian territory."

Moscow has refused to bow to Western pressure and cancel its US$700 million (€550 million) contract to sell 29 Tor-M1 air defense missile systems to Iran which was signed last December.

A Russian Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that Moscow would fulfill the contract unless international sanctions against Iran make it illegal.

U.N. Security Council members are deliberating on a draft European resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program. Russia and China, both veto-wielding Security Council members with strong commercial ties to Tehran, have consistently been reluctant to support sanctions.

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