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Iran Blocks Russia Fighter Overflight Access

Su-27 fighter jets
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia may not be able to showcase its Su-27 fighter to potential buyers at the Bahrain air show after Iranian authorities barred it from entering the nation's air space, the Russian Foreign Ministry said today.

An Su-27 bound for Bahrain was denied passage over Iran as it neared the border even though its flight plan had been cleared in advance by Iran's Foreign Ministry, the Russian ministry said.

"For unclear reasons, when the plane approached Iranian air space, Iranian aviation authorities refused to admit it," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. It said it hoped the issue could be resolved soon and the plane allowed passage.

The Russian statement did not make any link to international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Russia has toughened its stance toward Tehran but has so far stopped short of endorsing U.S. pressure for additional United Nations sanctions.

The Sukhoi Su-27 SKM was due to participate in a flying display at the Bahrain International Airshow, according to preliminary information on the website of the air show, with Moscow hoping to pick up sales in the Middle East.

The Su-27 SKM is a single-seat fighter that can carry guided weapons and operate in all weather conditions, according to the Sukhoi website. Indonesia is among customers for the fighter.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it had made the transit request in line with normal procedures and remained hopeful that following further contacts with the Iranian authorities, the plane would be allowed to continue its journey to Bahrain.