Iran says Russia could deliver missiles this year

A Russian surface-to-air missile system S-300 PMU2 Favorit is rolled out during a rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade in Alabino, outside Moscow, in 2012 (AFP Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Moscow (AFP) - A senior Iranian official said Tuesday that Russia could deliver sophisticated missile systems to Tehran this year after Moscow lifted a ban on supplying the weapons.

"I think that they will be delivered this year," Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies ahead of a meeting in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday removed a freeze on delivering sophisticated S-300 air defence missile systems to Iran after Tehran struck a landmark framework deal with the West over its nuclear programme.

While Iran welcomed the development, it sparked strong condemnation from Israel and triggered concern in Washington.

The secretary of Moscow's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev, on Tuesday said that it would likely take Russia's arms manufacturer "a minimum of half-a-year" to ready the missiles for delivery, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

The decision to unblock deliveries comes before any sanctions have been lifted from Iran, with difficult technical talks potentially resuming next week following the April 2 deal with six world powers aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear drive.

Moscow had blocked deliveries of the S-300 Tehran in 2010 after the United Nations slapped sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme barring hi-tech weapons sales.

Iran then filed a $4-billion suit at an arbitration court in Geneva over the cancellation of the $800 million order by Russia, which has long been Iran's principal foreign arms supplier.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted the missile deliveries were not covered by UN sanctions, and that the progress in the nuclear talks meant there was no longer any need for Russia to maintain the ban.

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