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Iran defense minister continues S-300 quest

Source: Press TV

The S-300 surface-to-air system features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets.
As Iran's defense minister holds talks with Russian officials, media reports suggest Tehran is pushing to finalize the S-300 defense system deal.

On an official visit, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar is meeting with high-ranking Russian officials to discuss ways on expanding bilateral military and defense ties.

Russian newspaper and news agencies, meanwhile, report that Najjar seeks to finalize the purchase of sophisticated air defense missiles.

"It is not ruled out that during the talks the Iranian side will raise the question about fulfilling the contract for the delivery of the S-300," the Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying.

Although an $800 million contract for five S-300 systems had already been signed between Iran and Russia, sources in the Russian weapons industry say Moscow had yet to make a decision on whether to deliver them, Kommersant reported.

The S-300 system, according to Western experts, would rule out the possibility of an Israeli airstrike on Iranian nuclear sites.

"If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran," says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure.

The S-300 surface-to-air system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away, is known in the West as the SA-20. The system features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets.

The United States, Israel and their European allies -- Britain, France and Germany, say Iran is seeking to build nuclear arms under the cover of a civilian atomic energy program.

Iran, a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, contends that its only goal is to make use of the civilian applications of the technology.

Israel, meanwhile, has threatened to launch airstrikes against Iranian nuclear infrastructure, arguing that a nuclear Iran would pose an "existential threat" to Tel Aviv.

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said in IDF's annual work plan for 2009 that the military was making preliminary preparations for launching a war against Iran.

The newly-installed administration of President Barack Obama, however, has said the US is prepared to talk to Iran -- a move which would make an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran "difficult", according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Russia, meanwhile, says there is no evidence that Iran is seeking to develop military nuclear capabilities, warning that pushing Tehran into a corner would be counterproductive.

Vladimir Voronkov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department of European cooperation, said in December 2008 that Russian intelligence agencies confirm that Iran does not have the "means" to develop a military nuclear program.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in October 2008 that the Kremlin would continue selling defensive weapons to Iran " to maintain the defense potential of our partners."

In December 2008, a senior Russian official said that military cooperation between Moscow and Tehran would ensure stability in the Middle East.

"Military-technical cooperation between Russia and Iran has a positive influence on stability in this region," said Alexander Fomin, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation.

Nevertheless, it is likely that a political decision would be required before the S-300 systems could be delivered to Tehran at a time when the Kremlin is considering a fresh start with the Obama White House.

In talks between Russian officials and Iran's defense minister, it is also expected that the question of after-sales service for the 29 Tor-M1 missile systems that Russia sold to Iran in 2005 for a reported 700 million dollars will be raised, AFP reported.

The Tor-M1 air-defense systems have a shorter range than the sophisticated S-300s.

Evgenia Voiko, an analyst from Center for Current Politics -- the analytical agency close to the Kremlin -- told Press TV that certain agreements would be reached during Najjar's visit.

"The deals would be beneficial for Russia. Iran is one of Russia's largest military and technical partners. It would be imprudent to lose such a promising customer," Voiko told our correspondent Svetlana Korkina.

Iran plans new fighter jets

Iran plans to build a new generation of fighter jets to boost its defense industry amid renewed Israeli war rhetoric against its nuclear work.

Iran's Saeqeh fighter jet

"The Islamic Republic has put on the agenda the manufacturing of a new range of fighter jets," Iran's Deputy Defense Minister, Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said on Tuesday, without giving further details.

Vahidi added that the country has also manufactured a new generation of drones with a range of 1,000 kilometers, Farsnews reported.

Iran has already built Azarakhsh and Saeqeh fighter jets.

The country has moved to upgrade its defense capabilities in response to Israel's war threats against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.

Israel has long threatened Iran with an attack should Tehran continue its nuclear work. Tel Aviv says Tehran is pursuing atomic bombs while Iran vehemently rejects the allegation, insisting its nuclear drive is peaceful.

Former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman, said on Friday that Tel Aviv was planning a military attack against Tehran, arguing that diplomacy could not work regarding the country's nuclear issue.

"Israel is facing an Iranian threat, from afar and from near. The nuclear threat and the terror threat ... it will be up to us to deal with this, and we will be able to deal with these two challenges successfully," he continued.

Gillerman added that Israel "will not live with a nuclear Iran", and urged the international community to consider Tehran as a serious threat.

Israel's renewed war rhetoric comes as the new US President Barack Obama promised to create conditions for "face to face" talks with Iran.

"I think there's the possibility, at least, of a relationship of mutual respect and progress," President Obama said last week.

"My expectation is, in the coming months, we will be looking for openings that can be created where we can start sitting across the table face-to-face with diplomatic overtures that will allow us to move our policy in the new direction," he added.

... Payvand News - 02/18/09 ... --

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