News Brief – October 8, 2008
Moscow failed to give Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert firm assurance that it would not sell advanced weapons to Israel’s enemies.
Wrapping up a two-day visit to Moscow on Tuesday, Mr. Olmert conceded only that Russian President Medvedev said he understood Israeli fears of Russian-made advanced technology falling into the wrong hands.
“My feeling is the Russian government understands well the Israeli position and is aware the possible influence such supplying could have on stability in the region,” Mr. Olmert told reporters.
However, he gave no direct response when asked if Russia had agreed definitely not to sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran.
Prime Minister Olmert only said: “We discussed issues of weapons sales and the possibility of weapons sales.”
The two sides did agree to open a permanent line of dialogue on defense issues and to set up a team to continue discussing weapons sales.
“Russia’s policy will continue to be that it would not hurt Israeli security under any circumstances,” Mr. Olmert said Mr. Medvedev had told him.
Israeli officials have said Iran is seeking to buy the Russian S-300 antiaircraft system to protect its nuclear facilities.
Described as a “game-changer”, the S-300 is seen as a potent anti-aircraft weapon.
If Russia agreed to sell the system to Tehran, experts regard it as powerful deterrent to Israeli air strikes should it be deployed around Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Meanwhile, Russia’s arms-export giant has reportedly denied it has plans to equip Iran and Syria with the air defense system.
“We have no information of this kind,” a spokesman for the Russian state-owned firm, Rosoboronexport, said in response to questions about sales.
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