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Russia defends arms sales to Syria

Sept. 29, 2008 at 6:19 PM

NEW YORK, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Russia's foreign minister said Monday his country's sale of weapons to Syria won't upset the balance of power in the Middle East.

The sales are "in line with the international law" and "in the interests of strengthening stability and maintaining security" in regions close to Russian borders, Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a visit to the United Nations in New York.

Syria is adding the latest Russian MiG-29SMT fighter to 36 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems purchased from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, noting Syria also hopes to buy Strelets short-range air defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft and two Amur-1650 submarines -- all Russian-made.

Russia plans to turn a Soviet-era navy site in the Syrian port of Tartus into a permanent naval base, RIA Novosti reported, adding that 10 Russian warships are deployed there now while Russia expands the port.

Israel and the United States have said they oppose further arms sales to Syria because the weapons could fall under the control of Iran or Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

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