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US pressuring Russia to drop weapons sale to Iran: report

AFP | April 18 2006

Russia is coming under US pressure to cancel a contract to deliver Tor-M1 mobile air defence systems to Iran due to concerns about Tehran's nuclear programme, a respected business daily reported Tuesday.

"Observers say that under pressure from the United States, Russia could cancel this deal and are already saying that it has been suspended," the Vedomosti daily said.

The newspaper cited a political analyst close to the Kremlin, Sergei Markov, as saying that delivery of the air defence systems had been delayed until the autumn out of consideration for US worries.

But the paper also referred to a source close to Russia's arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, as saying that the delay in fulfilling the order -- originally signed last November -- was due to the need to train personnel.

"The deal with Iran could only be broken in the event of the purchaser failing to pay. Cancellation of the contract under pressure from the United States would damage Russia's reputation as an arms exporter," the paper quoted an analyst, Konstantin Makiyenko of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, as saying.

Under the contract, signed in November, Iran is to pay more than 700 million dollars for 29 of the sophisticated short-range air defence systems, Russian defence sources said earlier.

Russia is a key ally of Iran's and has been building Iran's first nuclear power station at Bushehr, in the south of the country.

Washington suspects that Iran's stated aim of developing civilian nuclear power is a front for developing nuclear weapons.

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