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Iran Hopes For Missiles Soon, Russia Says Supplies Will Take Months

  • RFE/RL

An S-300 missile system is test-launched in Russia's Astrakhan region in 2013.

An S-300 missile system is test-launched in Russia's Astrakhan region in 2013.

An Iranian official says that Tehran believes Russia will deliver S-300 missile systems to the Middle East state this year, but a top ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested it could take at least six months.

Ali Shamkhani, deputy secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, spoke in Moscow on April 14 a day after Putin lifted a five-year-old prohibition on supplies of the high-precision missiles to Iran -- a move that was criticized by the United States and Israel.

"I believe they will be delivered this year," Shamkhani said of the S-300s.

Shamkhani said ending the ban would "help further promote" Russian-Iranian ties but said the issue was only a small part of a relationship that has "huge strategic potential."

The secretary of Putin's Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said it would "take time" for manufacturers to prepare for deliveries.

"I believe they will need at least six months to complete this work," the Interfax news agency quoted Patrushev as saying.

His remarks could raise questions about the intentions of Russia, which has used the potential delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran as a tool in diplomacy with Tehran and the West for years.

Russia imposed the ban and scrapped a $800 million contract to supply Iran with S-300s in 2010, after backing a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran -- including restrictions on arms trade -- over nuclear activities Western countries fear are aimed at developing atomic weapons.

Putin's decree came after Iran and six global powers including Russia and the United States agreed on April 2 on the framework of a deal that would curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from the UN sanctions as well as U.S. and EU measures.

Patrushev told reporters that Russia decided to go ahead with the contract because "the international situation has changed."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that there is now no legal barrier to supplies of S-300s to Iran -- but did not say when they might be delivered.

Peskov also confirmed that Russia has begun implementing an oil-for-goods barter deal with Iran, as suggested by a senior Russian diplomat on April 13.

Reuters news agency has reported that sources told the news agency a year ago that a $20 billion barter deal was being discussed which would allow Russia to buy up to 500,000 barrels of oil a day.

There have been contradictory statements from both Iran and Russia about whether the barter deal was in place.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on April 13 that "in exchange for Iranian crude-oil supplies, we are delivering certain products. This is not banned or limited under the current sanctions regime."

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, Reuters, and AFP
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