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In Moscow, Netanyahu presses for Iran sanctions 'with teeth'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won assurances Monday that Russia will will 'hold off' on supplying Iran with advanced S-300 air defense missiles, but it's still unlikely Russia will back sanctions against Iran, analysts say.

By Correspondent / February 15, 2010

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (r.) meet for talks in Moscow's Kremlin, Monday.

Yuri Kochetkov/Reuters

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Moscow

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won assurances from President Dmitri Medvedev that Russia will will "hold off" on supplying Iran with advanced S-300 air defense missiles at a Kremlin meeting Monday.

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"On this issue [the S-300s] Russia is taking into consideration the needs for stability in the region," Mr. Netanyahu said after meeting with Mr. Medvedev for several hours Monday.

On Sunday, Vladimir Nazarov, deputy secretary of the Kremlin's Security Council, had suggested that there was no reason for Russia to continue stalling on delivering the weapons to Iran because "this deal is not restricted by international sanctions.... it is a purely defensive weapon."

Moscow contracted to sell the ultramodern S-300 to Iran in 2005, but has delayed delivery for what experts describe as diplomatic reasons.

"The contract is signed, but there are ongoing differences of opinion about whether or not to deliver the weapons," says Vitaly Shlykov, a former deputy defense minister who now works as a civilian adviser to Russia's Defense Ministry.

A 'game changer'

The S-300 is a mobile, long-range air defense weapon comparable to the US Patriot missile system. If combined with the Tor-M1 short-range antiaircraft missiles supplied to Iran by Russia three years ago, the S-300s could provide a formidable defensive shield for Iran's nuclear sites, experts say.

"The Israelis tell us that a Russian decision to supply the S-300s to Iran might provoke an immediate Israeli strike against Iran," says Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the independent Institute of Middle East Studies in Moscow. "This weapon would be a game changer in the region."

As an apparent gesture to the concerns of the international community, the Russian state firm Atomstroyexport has also been delaying completion of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran, which is already almost two years behind its scheduled completion date.

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