Iran backtracks missile announcement

Iran denies previous statement after Russians deny they'll be providing them with anti-aircraft missiles.

bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran has denied holding talks about launching a new missile system with Russian officials during their recent visit to Teheran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said Monday. Hosseini made the remarks at a weekly press appearing, commenting on discussions held by Iranian and Russian officials during a visit to Teheran earlier in December. "No talks have been held on this issue," Hosseini stressed. "Iran's talks with Russia also include defense issues held within the framework of international laws. This is what has happened in the past and would continue in future within the same framework," he added. The Iranians' denial contradicts their previous announcement on the issue, claiming Russia was preparing to equip Iran with the missile systems that would dramatically increase the country's ability to repel an air strike. On Saturday, the federal agency overseeing Russia's military exports denied reports that the country planned to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran. The Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service denied the claim Friday in a brief statement. "The question of deliveries of S-300 systems to Iran, which has now arisen in the mass media, is not currently taking place, is not being considered and is not being discussed at this time with the Iranian side," said the agency, known by its Russian initials, FSVTS. The S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missile warheads at ranges of over 145 kilometers and at altitudes of about 27,000 meters. Russian military officials boast that its capabilities outstrip the US Patriot missile system. The S-300 is an improvement over the Tor-M1 air defense missile system. Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran this year under a US$700 million contract signed in December 2005. Iranian media reports have claimed the S-300 missile systems could inflict significant damage on US or Israeli forces, were they to attack Iran. Russia has provided Iran with submarines and military planes in recent decades. Earlier Friday, the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, reported that a second shipment of nuclear fuel arrived from Russia to the Iranian nuclear facility at Bushehr. Russian sources said the facility will operational in just eight months, by August 2008. Friday's shipment was received eleven days after the first shipment, made on December 17. In February 2008, the third shipment is scheduled to be made, and this will allow the facility to be operational within six months, the Russian sources said. A senior official in Iran's nuclear program said the "shipment was transferred to Iran according to the planned schedule. Iran claims the Bushehr plant is intended strictly for peaceful purposes, namely for generating electricity. However, Israeli officials on all levels, including President Shimon Peres, expressed doubt as to whether a country counted among the heavyweights of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) has any real reason to search for alternative energy sources.