Officials: Russia not delivering S-300 to Iran

Israeli officials deny Iranian claim that deployment of Russian anti-aircraft defense system has begun.

s-300 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
s-300 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Israeli officials categorically denied on Sunday Iranian press reports that Russia will soon begin delivery of a state-of-the-art anti-missile system that could make it considerably harder to attack the Islamic republic's nuclear facilities. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel had been assured by senior Russian officials that these reports were "baseless," and that the Kremlin stood by the agreement, reached with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit there in October, not to sell weapons in the region that would "tip the strategic balance." On Sunday, the Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Esmaeil Kosari, deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, as saying that Teheran would take delivery of the S-300 air defense system from Russia "soon." According to IRNA, Kosari said Iran and Russia had finalized a deal after holding negotiations for several years. The S-300 is one of the most advanced multi-target anti-aircraft missile systems in the world, and has a reported ability to track up to 100 targets simultaneously while engaging up to 12. The S-300 system was first deployed by the USSR in 1979 and was designed to defend large industrial and administrative facilities and military bases, and to control airspace against enemy aircraft. It has a range of about 200 km. and can hit targets at altitudes of 27,000 meters. Iran already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia. Referring to Jerusalem's opposition to the sale, Kosari said, "Israel is trying to create obstacles to Iran's progress. But the independent countries, including Iran, have national sovereignty and they make decisions on their ties with other states." Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau, was in Moscow for two days of talks last week, where the S-300 was on the agenda. The other major topic was a Russian request to buy unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel. In an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax on Friday, Gilad said Israel hoped Moscow would take the Jewish state's security needs into account in its arms sales to the Middle East. "The deliveries of dangerous armaments to our enemies won't serve the interests of peace and, for instance, can help Iran wipe Israel off the face of the earth. So we expect Russia to demonstrate responsibility on the issue," Gilad said. "We know that we are expected to respect Russia's interests," he added. "We in turn expect that Russia will respect our interests, the willingness of our small country to live in peace." Officials in the Defense Ministry would not comment directly on the content of Gilad's talks. However, a senior defense official said, "It is unlikely that Russia will sell the S-300 to Iran. It is not in Russia's interest for Iran to have such advanced weaponry."