Russia to sell advanced missiles to Syria
MOSCOW: Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to supply Syria with advanced missile systems, a move certain to anger the United States which accuses Syria of having links to terrorism.
Russia had long denied reports it wanted to sell missiles to Syria, its Cold War-era ally. The United States and Israel have urged Moscow to drop any such plans, saying Russian arms supplies would only strengthen militants in the Middle East. “Talks are underway with this country to sell it Strelets air defence short-range missile systems,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The statement said Strelets missiles are not man-portable and can only be used when attached to a heavy vehicle - which officials believe makes them less attractive to militants than the relatively cheap and easy-to-use shoulder-fired missiles. Earlier this week, a senior US diplomat in Moscow said the United States remained concerned over any arms trading with Syria that could lead to missile technology falling into the hands of terrorists.
“Our bottom line is that they (the Russians) should not be providing any military assistance to Syria since they are a sponsor of terrorism,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. Relations between the United States and Syria are already tense and the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri this week has further strained them.
US officials say Syria’s military presence and political power-broking role are responsible for Lebanon’s instability and on Tuesday Washington recalled its ambassador to Syria and said it was considering imposing new sanctions on Damascus.
The news of Moscow’s intention comes just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George W Bush are due to sign a deal to curb trade in shoulder-fired missiles when they meet in Bratislava on Feb. 24.
Media reported earlier this year that Moscow was looking to sell Syria its flagship Igla shoulder-fired missiles, widely used by militants around the world. But the Defence Ministry on Wednesday reiterated that arms trade with Syria included no Igla missiles. reuters