Russia to continue arms sales to Iran

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says US sanctions will not stop Russia’s state arms trader from selling defensive weapons to Iran.

The US State Department announced on Thursday that it had taken punitive measures against 13 companies in China and Venezuela as well as the Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport for allegedly providing sensitive technology to Iran.

On Tuesday, the Russian president said in televised comments that the US decision was simply an attempt to sideline a successful competitor on the global arms market.

“We will continue to sell arms and military equipment exclusively to maintain the defense potential of our partners,” Medvedev affirmed.

Moscow has recently delivered 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a $700 million contract signed in late 2005 and trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders.

The US sanctions ban any government body from doing business with the Russia company – which is known for selling defensive weapons to countries that the US considers its adversaries.

Warning that the White House had failed to fully consider the implications of taking such measures, President Medvedev said, “Whoever is responsible for the sanctions should know that we consider such actions as short-sighted.”

Russia ‘will practically not feel’ the sanctions, he added.

Shortly after the introduction of the sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized Washington, saying that there is no ‘international legal foundation’ for justifying the White House action.

“We will take this into account in our affairs, in our relations with the United States,” said Lavrov, warning that the sanctions could not undermine Moscow’s relations with Tehran.

The US accuses Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of conducting nuclear activities directed at developing a nuclear weapon. Iran says it only seeks the civilian applications of the technology.

Washington has slapped unilateral sanctions on Tehran, urging allies to follow suit. The UN Security Council, meanwhile, has also imposed sanction resolutions against Iran, demanding a halt in nuclear activities of the country.

The UN nuclear watchdog, which has extensively monitored Iran’s nuclear activities, says it is not a position to fully clarify the nature of the Iranian program.

The agency, however, said in its latest report on the issue that it has not found any ‘components of a nuclear weapon’ or ‘related nuclear physics studies’ in the country.