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Terrorism & Security

Russia suspends Iran arms sale following Israeli PM's visit to Moscow

Russia decided to delay the delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The delay is expected to further strain relations between Moscow and Tehran.

By Huma YusufCorrespondent / February 17, 2010

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Moscow Tuesday.

Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/Reuters

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Russia on Wednesday delayed the delivery of S-300 air defense missiles to Iran, citing unspecified technical problems. The announcement comes a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow to urge Russia to take tougher action against Iran’s nuclear program. The delay is expected to further strain relations between Moscow and Tehran.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the delivery of S-300 missiles has not been canceled.

"The delay is due to technical problems. The delivery will be carried out when they are resolved," Alexander Fomin, deputy head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told the Interfax news agency…. Neither the United States nor Israel have ruled out air strikes in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Analysts say that S-300s could greatly complicate such air strikes.

On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the international community against imposing sanctions following an earlier announcement that Iran would enrich uranium to 20 percent purity. During their meeting the same day, Mr. Putin assured Mr. Netanyahu that Russia did not want to spark an arms race in the Middle East, reports Haaretz.

During his two-hour meeting with Netanyahu, Putin stressed that Russia would refrain from selling any arms to Syria and Iran that would tilt the strategic balance in the region.

Netanyahu and Putin devoted most of their discussions on Russian plans to sell S-300 surface-to-air missiles, as well as the sale of Russian arms to Syria. The prime minister said he told Putin of the need to apply strict economic sanctions against Iran, along with preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Just in September, Russia was angrily denying allegations that one of its freighters had been secretly carrying S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Iran. The ship's official cargo was timber bound for Algeria, the Monitor reported at the time. The following month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Moscow to pressure the Russians to find a joint approach to deal with Iran's alleged drive to obtain nuclear weapons.

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