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Russia to offer Iran S-300 missiles, nuclear reactor: report

Russian President Vladimir Putin will offer to supply Iran with air defense missile systems and a second nuclear reactor when he meets his Iranian counterpart on Friday, according to Russian media.

Russia Iran s300 missiles 9 11 2013Enlarge
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Iran's new president for the first time this week, reportedly armed with an offer to supply missile systems and build a second nuclear power reactor that is likely to gladden Tehran and trouble the United States.

President Hassan Rowhani is set to meet Putin on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation held in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, in the newly-elected centrist cleric's first meeting with a major world leader.

The Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday that Putin will offer to supply Iran S-300 air defence missile systems as well as build a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant.

The S-300 offer would be a particularly contentious development given it would essentially revive a contract for similar missile systems that Russia cancelled in 2010 after heavy Israeli and US pressure.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Kommersant that Putin and Rowhani were expected to discuss "working together in the nuclear energy sphere" and "questions of military technical cooperation" at the summit in Bishkek.

Putin's meeting with the leader of Moscow's long-standing regional ally comes shortly after he hosted Western powers for a G20 summit focused on Syria in Saint Petersburg this month.

Putin will make significant concessions to Iran by offering to supply Tehran with five sophisticated S-300 ground-to-air missile systems, Kommersant reported, quoting a source close to the Kremlin.

The source also said that Russia would offer to build a second reactor for the Bushehr nuclear plant, Iran's only functioning nuclear power station whose construction was completed by Russia, as a political gesture.

Putin took the decisions last Thursday, the source said.

Russia in 2007 signed a contract to deliver five of the advanced S-300 ground-to-air weapons systems — which can take out aircraft or guided missiles — to Iran at a cost of $800 million.

In 2010 then-president Dmitry Medvedev cancelled the contract after coming under strong US and Israeli pressure not to go ahead with the sale of the weapons system, drawing vehement protests from Tehran.

Kommersant cited a source as saying that Russia's offer would depend on Iran's withdrawing a $4 billion lawsuit that it has lodged at an international court in Geneva against Russia's arms export agency.

Putin would offer to supply Tehran with a modified export version of the S-300 systems called S-300VM Antey-2500, the source said.

Russia could increase supplies of arms to Iran if the United States decides on military intervention in Syria, the head of the lower house's committee on international relations, Alexei Pushkov, told parliament on Wednesday.

"If the 'party of war' prevails in the United States... then I consider it absolutely justified to suggest considering more serious measures by Russia, including broadening of supplies of defensive weapons to Iran," Pushkov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Iran is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main regional ally and has warned Western powers against intervention in the conflict.

Russia has consistently opposed international military intervention against Assad and is negotiating with Damascus on a plan for it to hand over chemical weapons in order to avoid US strikes.

An arms industry source told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday that supplies of Antey-2500 S-300s to Iran "could not be ruled out in the future, but so far no pre-contractual work is being carried out by Russian exporters."

Kommersant also cited the source close to the Kremlin as saying that that Russia was ready to build a second reactor for Bushehr power station in a deal that was not "particularly profitable from an economic point of view, but is rather political."

Moscow has cooperated with Iran on nuclear power generation despite international opposition to a programme that Western powers and Israel believe is being used as a smokescreen for building a nuclear bomb, while Iran insists it is peaceful.

Russia had urged the West to soften sanctions against Iran after the election of Rowhani, a centrist cleric, in June, expressing hopes for a major breakthrough in the nuclear standoff. Rowhani has pledged greater transparency in talks.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130911/putin-offer-iran-arms-nuclear-deal-at-summit