Russian air defense missiles arrive, Iranian official says
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian officials said Wednesday that they have taken delivery of advanced Russian air defense missile systems -- weapons intended, according to one Russian news agency, to defend Tehran's major nuclear facilities.
Announcement of the delivery of the Tor-M1 mobile missile launchers came as Iran launched three days of military maneuvers, its first since the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions against Iran on Dec. 23.
"We have had constructive defense transactions with Russia and we purchased Tor-M1 missiles that were recently delivered to us," the official Web site of Iranian state television quoted Minister of Defense Mostafa Mohammad Najjar as saying.
Najjar did not say how many missiles were delivered or when they arrived.
Previously Moscow said it would supply 29 of the mobile surface-to-air missile systems to Iran under a $700 million contract signed in December 2005, Russian media has reported.
In New York, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, Richard Grenell, called the development "troublesome given that Iran is the leading state sponsor of terror in the world."
"It certainly isn't an appropriate signal to be sending a government which is under U.N. sanctions for trying to develop a nuclear weapon," Grenell said.
According to Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency, the weapons were expected to be used to protect major government and military installations such the nuclear facilities at Isfahan, Bushehr, Tehran and in eastern Iran.
ITAR-Tass on Tuesday quoted Sergei Chemezov, the head of the country's state-run weapons exporter as saying that the Tor-M1 missiles had been delivered before the end of December 2006.
It is not clear whether the sale was completed before the Security Council vote. Russian officials have repeatedly said the sale would not violate any international obligations.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, current president of the Security Council, did not explicitly confirm the handover. But he said "whatever deliveries may have been carried out," they had "nothing to do" with the U.N. sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment.
The United States last year called for a halt to international arms exports to Iran, and for an end to nuclear cooperation with Iran to pressure it to stop uranium enrichment. Israel has also criticized arms deals with Iran.
Iran denies U.S. accusations that it is using its nuclear power program as a cover to develop nuclear weapons. On Monday, Tehran conducted missile tests and said it had barred 38 U.N. nuclear inspectors from entering the country.
Associated Press writer Justin Bergman at the United Nations contributed to this report.