Iranian defence minister seeks advanced missiles from Moscow

The Iranian defence minister, now visiting Moscow, is seeking advanced surface-to-air missiles that could help Iran counter air strikes, a Russian newspaper reported Tuesday, dpa reported.

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar met with his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on "current and future issues of bilateral military relations," the Russian defence ministry said.

Kommersant daily said Najjar would likely lobby Moscow to deliver long-range S-300 surface-to-air missiles. Russia, the paper said, was extremely reluctant to deliver the weapons for fear of damaging ties with the new US administration.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out the possibility of military action against Tehran if it continues developing nuclear technology that could be used for weapons.

Russia has repeatedly denied that it intends to sell Iran the advanced air defence systems, saying it would not supply Iran with weapons that would "undermine regional security."

Kommersant cited an official in the Russian weapons industry as saying that Russia had agreed to an 800-million-dollar contract to sell Iran five S-300 missiles, but Moscow was now delaying the delivery of the weapons.

US plans to build a missile-defence shield in eastern Europe have caused tension between the two former Cold War superpowers, but both sides have signalled they were seeking a fresh start in relations under US President Barack Obama.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that he would meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Russia and the United States, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, have differed in their policy to Iran's nuclear programme.

The United States and western allies fear the programme is a cover for ambitions to build nuclear weapons. Moscow, meanwhile, backs Iran in its contention that its nuclear programme is for purely civilian uses. Its first nuclear power plant, Bushehr, could go online as early as this year.

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