Olmert in Russia for Iran, Syria Arms

Outgoing Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert is currently on a two-day visit to Russia with Iran nuclear standoff and Russia’s weapons sales to Tehran and Damascus high on his agenda.

During his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday, October 7, Olmert sought to persuade Medvedev not to sell weapons to Iran and Syria, diplomatic sources told Israel’s Haaretz.

Israel is particularly concerned about the sales of Russia’s S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Syria and Iran.

It says such sales would undermine its air superiority over both states and would allow Tehran to protect its nuclear sites more effectively against any possible Israeli strike.

The S-300 missile, called the SA-10 in the West, has a range of 150 kilometers and is capable of striking a plane up to 30 kilometers above the ground.

Israeli sources said they did not know whether Russia has already signed agreements to provide the advanced missile systems to Iran and Syria, or even whether it intends to do so.

Russia’s arms export monopoly denied any plans to deliver the anti-aircraft weapons to either Iran or Syria.

"We have no information of this kind," said a spokesman for Rosoboronexport.

Olmert is also seeking to persuade Russia to join US-led pressures on Iran over its nuclear program.

"(It is) crucial that Russia take part in the international effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear power and putting an end to Iran’s enrichment operations," he said.

The US and its allies, particularly, claim that Iran’s nuclear program covers a secret weapons program.

Tehran insists the program is only aimed at generating energy for a growing population.

The US and Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed country, have not ruled out military options against Iran.

Russian sources do not expect that Moscow would change its position on Iran’s nuclear program.

Russia objects to imposing harsher international sanctions on Iran and has already provided low-grade enriched uranium for Iran’s nuclear reactor in Bushehr, which is due to begin operating next year.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment work.

Moscow is also in preliminary negotiations with Tehran to build two more reactors for electricity production.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov  told Olmert Monday his country abides by its long-standing position of not helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.

"Russia is committed to preventing the nuclearization of Iran for military purposes."

(IslamOnline.net and newspapers)

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