Russia to fill Iran anti-air missile order

May 26, 2006 at 3:42 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, May 26 (UPI) -- Russia said Friday it would fulfill a contract for the delivery of Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

Sergei Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister and defense minister, said the contract for 30 of the weapons, reportedly valued at $700 million, would be honored, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Some time is needed to implement it," Ivanov told reporters in St. Petersburg. "It will be done if there are no forbidding circumstances."

The U.S. State Department quickly called on Ivanov to reconsider the deal.

The Tor-M1, also known as Gauntlet SA-15, is designed to intercept targets at medium and low altitudes, including war planes and helicopters as well as cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The system is carried on a tracked vehicle that can be moved from place to place. Ivanov characterized the weapons as purely defensive and dismissed suspicion they could make their way into the hands of Islamic terrorists.

Once deployed, however, the weapons would be added to the strategic mix as the United States and Iran posture in a diplomatic tussle over Iran's nuclear power program, which the Bush administration insists is a cover for nuclear weapons development.

While Washington says a military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities is not an option, fielding the Tor-M1 would no doubt make it tougher for anyone to destroy the controversial sites, or spy on them from low altitude.

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