Russia denies claims of missile deal with Iran

Earlier, Iran says 2nd fuel shipment reaches Bushehr; Russia: Facility will operate by Aug. 2008.

bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The federal agency overseeing Russia's military exports denied reports that the country planned to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran. Iran's defense minister said this week that Russia was preparing to equip Iran with the missile systems that would dramatically increase the country's ability to repel an air strike. But 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. Also, Peres said recently, Iran's continuing research and development of long-range ballistic missiles "makes no sense" unless it is planning to arm them with nuclear warheads. In related news, IRNA quoted the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki as vehemently condemning the assassination of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Mottaki was speaking in an election rally in Rawalpindi on Thursday. Iran's condemnation of the assassination seems at best cynical, as Bhutto, who vowed to combat Muslim extremists in Pakistan and also expressed in the past a will to strengthen ties with Israel, was most likely assassinated by an extremist group; this in view of the fact that Iran itself is considered by Israel, the US and also by several leading European countries as a major exporter of Global Jihad and Muslim extremism. Mottaki expressed the great sorrow of the Iranian nation and government about "this tragic event" and sympathized with the bereaved family of the late Pakistani politician and the nation and government of Pakistan.