Russia won't supply S-300 missile to Iran soon, minister says

Local media cites Moscow's deputy FM as saying gesture alone of removing weapons sales ban was important.

S-300 mobile missile launching systems  (photo credit: REUTERS)
S-300 mobile missile launching systems
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MOSCOW - Supplying Iran with Russian S-300 missile defense systems is not a matter of the nearest future, TASS news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry official as saying on Thursday.
"It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken," Sergei Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister, said according to TASS.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a radio interview with Sputnik, tried to downplay the impact of the sale of the S-300 to Iran.
“The S-300 cannot be used for protection against nuclear weapons,” Lavrov said, adding that “the S-300 is only good for protection against non-strategic missiles, against air strikes.”
But he then clarified that, with the S-300, “those who want to deliver a strike at Iran will have to think at least twice before doing it.”
Lavrov said his country has a right to sell the S-300, adding that Iran needs the anti-missile system for self-defense.
“The developments in Yemen and the rest of the region point to huge risks. We don’t want Iran to become another target for the illegitimate use of force,” Lavrov said in the radio interview with Sputnik.
Russia felt free to move forward with the sale of the S-300, he said, because the six powers and Iran had agreed on a framework deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the details of which are expected to be finalized in June.
Israel is opposed to the framework agreement, which it believes will allow Iran to continue to both develop its nuclear weapons program and increase its stockpile of conventional weapons.
It views the S-300 sale as proof of the danger of finalizing the framework agreement and has argued that only continued and increased sanctions against Iran would force it to halt its nuclear program.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama warned that the United States could “penetrate” Iran’s S-300 supply if Russia sells the advanced missile-defense system to the Islamic Republic.
Speaking on the MSNBC program Hardball with Chris Matthews, Obama underlined that the US objected to Russia’s decision to lift the ban on the S-300 sale to Iran, saying the move is of particular concern due to the ongoing negotiations between world powers and the Islamic Republic on a final deal regarding its disputed nuclear program.
On Thursday, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who participated in the Iran talks, told CNBC the deal would help the international community contain Iran’s nuclear program.
“[For a minimum of 10 years,] we will have a very comfortable ability to detect any military activity related to the nuclear program and we would have adequate time to respond,” Moniz said.
Under the deal, which Iran, the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany are working to finalize, UN inspectors would have access to Tehran’s nuclear facilities deemed to be suspicious, officials involved in the talks have said.
However, inspector access to Iran’s military facilities is a contentious issue, sure to be a debating point as the talks progress. On Sunday, Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, rejected any inspections of military sites as a “national humiliation” in comments cited by a state news agency.
Moniz told CNBC agreements under the framework deal would give world powers access to Iran’s uranium supply chain for 25 years in a “completely unprecedented way” and that the plan would “essentially forever” commit Iran to verification that goes beyond agreements international nuclear inspectors have anywhere else.
Reuters contributed to this report.