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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Peres: Russia pledges review of air defence sale to Iran

President Dmitry Medvedev has promised to review Russia's controversial planned sale of its sophisticated S-300 air defence system to Iran, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Wednesday.

"President Medvedev promised to review this issue once again after I explained that it would have an impact on the balance of force in our region," Peres said a day after he held talks with the Russian leader.

The contract for the S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems is reported to have been signed back in 2005 but has proved hugely controversial as the weapons would significantly upgrade Iranian air defence capabilities.

The United States has never ruled out the option of an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities to punish Tehran for its defiance in the nuclear standoff.

Russian officials have emphasized over the last months that none of the S-300 systems have been delivered to Tehran and have never given any indication of when the contract might be fulfilled.

Medvedev's promise of a review of the S-300 sale comes amid continued US and Israeli concern about Russian ties with Tehran at a time of mounting tensions over its atomic drive.

Russia is building Iran's first nuclear power station in the southern city of Bushehr and maintains relatively friendly diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.

But Peres said that Medvedev had also promised him that Russia would do "everything to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon."

"I can say that the positions of Russia and Israel on this question have come closer," he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

His talks with Medvedev Tuesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi appeared largely aimed at raising the Jewish state's concerns about Iran.

"There is an opportunity to prevent the danger of Iran evolving into a nuclear power," an Israeli official told the Interfax news agency.

The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme.