Russia to freeze Iran missile deal: Interfax

MOSCOW (BestGrowthStock) – Russia will freeze a contract to sell S-300 missile systems to Iran after the United Nations Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.

The report, which cited an unidentified source in Russia’s arms industry, contradicted Russian officials and others who have said the sanctions approved on Wednesday with Moscow’s support would not affect the air-defense missile deal.

“The U.N. Security Council decision is binding for all countries and Russia is no exception,” Interfax cited the source as saying. “Naturally, the contract to deliver S-300 missile systems will be frozen.”

Russia has used its unfulfilled deal to provide Iran with S-300 missiles as a lever in its delicate diplomacy with Tehran and Western powers seeking to rein in Iran’s nuclear activity, which they say is aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.

Israel and the United States have asked Russia not to deliver the missile systems, which can shoot down several aircraft or missiles simultaneously and could potentially be used to protect nuclear facilities.

Western diplomats in Moscow believe Russia is eager to keep the deal in reserve as a bargaining chip. Iran has expressed increasing frustration over the unfulfilled contract.

Russia’s move toward support for the new sanctions against Iran has been accompanied by repeated assurances that the measures would not affect the S-300 deal.

The latest came on Thursday from the Kremlin-allied chairman of the International Affairs committee in Russia’s lower parliament house. Konstantin Kosachyov said the S-300 is a defensive weapon and would not be affected, Itar-Tass reported.

In Washington, Republican U.S. Senator Jon Kyl criticized the U.N. sanctions resolution on Wednesday for excluding the S-300 deal and Russia’s construction of Iran’s first nuclear power plant near Bushehr.

Russia has close ties with Iran and has worked with China, also a veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member, to water down Western-backed sanctions resolutions against Tehran, including the latest one.

But Moscow has been increasingly critical of Tehran’s rejection of a proposal to ease concerns about the purpose of its nuclear program by having uranium shipped to Russia for enrichment.

U.S. President Barack Obama has courted Russian support for the new sanctions, and administration officials have pointed to Moscow’s backing as a positive result of a “reset” aimed to improve long-strained ties.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday warned Russia not to side with “Iran’s enemies” by supporting the sanctions.

Officials said Ahmadinejad, unlike last year, would stay away from a summit of a Central Asian security organization led by Russia and China starting on Thursday in Uzbekistan.

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(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Steve Gutterman; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Russia to freeze Iran missile deal: Interfax