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Medvedev bans weapon sales to Iran

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has issued a decree prohibiting the delivery of S-300 air defence missile systems and other weapons to Iran, the Kremlin said yesterday.

The decree will please the Western nations concerned about Iran's military capability. Israel and the United States in particular have long lobbied Moscow to scrap plans to sell Tehran the high-precision missile systems, and Russian officials had promised not to deliver them after supporting a fresh round of UN sanctions against Iran in June.

The move bars the delivery to Iran of "any battle tanks, combat armoured vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems, combat helicopters, military ships" and missiles covered by a UN register, as well as spare parts. It specifically prohibits the delivery of the S-300 – of particular concern because of fears that Iran could use them to protect facilities crucial to its nuclear programme, which Western governments suspect is aimed at developing a bomb.

The decree was announced hours after Russia's armed forces chief of staff said the military was fulfilling government orders not to deliver S-300s to Iran. The timing of the decree could have been intended to appease the West after the start-up of a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Iran last month and the recent announcement of Russia's plans to sell missiles to Syria, which alarmed Israel and the White House. Reuters