Russia cancels missile deal to Iran that would 'flout' sanctions
Russia has given its firmest undertaking yet that it will not supply S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, saying that their delivery would flout United Nations sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
"A decision has been taken not to supply the S-300 to Iran. They definitely fall under sanctions," said General Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian army's general staff.
The general's words, in a statement to reporters, were the first public confirmation that Moscow had cancelled the controversial sale. Anatoly Serdyukov, the Russian defence minister, said separately that the decision to kill the deal had been personally taken by President Dmitry Medvedev.
"This is dictated by a complicated military and political situation in the region and support for the United Nations sanctions against Iran," Mr Serdyukov explained in an interview.
The United States and Israel were strongly opposed to the missile sale, believing it would alter the balance of the power in the region and make any future air strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities more hazardous.
Although the Kremlin had privately reassured the two countries it had halted delivery, it had made no public statements on the issue until yesterday. The original deal, struck in 2007, was worth an estimated £530m (€620m) and envisaged the delivery of five S-300 missile batteries to Iran.
The S-300 is a mobile long-range air defence system that can detect, track and destroy ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and low-flying aircraft.
Russia's disavowal of the Iranian sale could help to defuse growing US and Israeli anger over its decision last week to deliver P-800 Yakhont cruise missiles worth £200m (€235m) to Syria. However Mr Serdyukov, the Russian defence minister, was quoted as saying that Syria has given Moscow a new list of arms it would like to buy. He said Russia was considering the request to see how it might affect the balance of power in the Middle East.
Sceptics are unlikely to be fully satisfied by Russia's promise not to supply Iran. When asked whether the Iranian deal had been permanently cancelled, General Makarov said: "We will see. This will depend on Iran's behaviour." (© Daily Telegraph, London)