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Russia: Moscow Defends Cyprus Missile Deal

Moscow, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - A Russian government spokesman today downplayed a controversial missile sale to Cyprus and accused critics of opposing the deal because it benefits Russia.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov told reporters the sale to Cyprus of Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles was "an ordinary business transaction" and reaction to it was so sharp because "someone doesn't like Russia entering new arms markets."

Tarasov reiterated Russia's position that the missiles were "purely defensive" and accused opponents of the sale of artificially stirring up tensions.

The Greek-Cypriot authorities decision to buy the missiles was criticized by the United States, Britain and Turkey. Turkish Defence Minister Turhan Tayan warned that Ankara could retaliate with a military strike on Southern Cyprus if the Greek-Cypriot authorities went ahead with their decision to deploy the missiles.

Since 1974, when Turkish forced invaded its northern part, Cyprus has been divided into a Greek sector and a breakaway Turkish sector.