Contradictions abound over Moscow's intentions toward Iran

08:22, June 11, 2010      

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There is confusion over how Wednesday's adoption of new U.N. sanctions against Iran will affect ties between Russia and Iran as local media report conflicting remarks from officials and experts.

OFFICIAL REASSURANCES

New U.N. sanctions against Iran would not seriously affect the Russian-Iranian cooperation in military and nuclear areas, according to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

"Yesterday's resolution on Iran refers to particular kinds of weapons. I can tell you that all air defense systems with the exception of portables are not liable for the U.N. conventional arms restrictions," Nesterenko was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Still, Nesterenko noted, the final decision should be made by the Defense Ministry rather than the Foreign Ministry.

An earlier Interfax report citing an arms industry source said that Russia would freeze a contract to sell Iran S-300 air defence missile systems in light of the new sanctions.

"The U.N. Security Council's resolutions are mandatory for all countries. Russia is no exception here. Naturally, the contract for the delivery of S-300 missile systems to Tehran will be frozen," he said.

However, head of the International Committee of Russia's State Duma Konstantin Kosachyov said Russia could still fulfill its commitment for the delivery.

"Eight items have been added to the list of armaments liable for sanctions. However, there are no defensive systems, such as S-300 missiles, on the list," Kosachyov said.

Iran struck a deal with Russia to buy S-300 systems in 2007, but Russia has delayed delivery of the anti-aircraft missiles.

The S-300 air defense system is an advanced mobile system that can shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles from up to 150 km away. The United States and Israel oppose the sale of the missiles to Iran.

On another important project of Russian-Iranian cooperation, Nesterenko said the construction of the nuclear plant in Bushehr would not be hampered by the U.N. resolution either.

"Bushehr has been a separate project under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency and all the works have been progressing absolutely transparently," the Russian diplomat said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev previously announced the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant would be completed by August 2010.

EXPERTS IN DOUBT

Despite Nesterenko's firm statements, some Russian experts cast doubts on the legitimacy of both arms sales and the Bushehr plant construction after the U.N. sanctions.

"It is absolutely impossible to continue the shipments of S-300 missile systems to Iran in the near future because of the U.N. sanctions," Ruslan Pukhov, a Moscow-based expert, told the Interfax news agency.

Pukhov, director of the Center for Strategies and Technologies Analysis, said the shipment would be frozen "unconditionally."

"The same is true regarding other Russian-Iranian joint military and technological projects," he insisted. "Moreover, the situation makes it impossible to keep technical service of the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missiles already supplied."

Igor Korotchenko, head of the Center for Analysis of Global Arms Trade, suggested Russia compensate losses by signing new agreements with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Korotchenko told the RIA Novosti news agency that "Russia can compensate her lost profits by signing the new contracts on supplying Iraq and Afghanistan armies with helicopters, armored vehicles, hand guns and the weaponry."

For Russia, it was very risky to continue shipments of the S-300 missiles to Iran, as Western powers might decide to strike Iranian nuclear and defense facilities, which could seriously deteriorate Russia-West relations, the expert said.

"This is why Russia will cease any cooperation with Iran in military and technical areas in the foreseeable future," he said.

TIES AFFECTED?

Besides specific concerns about arms sales and the nuclear project, Russian officials and experts on Thursday also differed on the possible effect of the sanctions on the relationship between Russia and Iran.

Kosachyov said new sanctions would not affect ties between Moscow and Tehran.

"The resolution has no direct effect on Russia," he said. "The resolution clearly tells Iran that there is still a possibility of dialogue on certain terms."

This view, however, was not shared by Radzhab Safarov, director of the Russian Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies. Safarov said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's withdrawal from the Tashkent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the delay of the Iranian oil minister's visit to Russia could indicate that Iran was unhappy with Moscow's support for the latest sanctions.

"Under earlier plans, the Iranian oil minister was to visit Moscow on June 22. A letter has arrived today, saying that the visit has been indefinitely postponed. Clearly enough, it was diplomatic wording for a refusal," Safarov said.

A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday also reflected Russia's concerns that stiffer sanctions might cast a shadow over Russian enterprises or people.

"We cannot possibly ignore signals reaching us about the intention of some of our partners ... to start considering additional, tougher restrictive measures against Iran than those provided for under the U.N. Security Council resolution," the statement said.

"Such decisions, if they affect Russian legal entities or individuals, are fraught with retaliatory measures," it said.

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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