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Russia says missile delivery to Iran delayed
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Feb 17, 2010

US has no plan for military action against Iran: Clinton
Dubai (AFP) Feb 17, 2010 - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country has no plan for military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, in a television interview broadcast on Wednesday. "Obviously, we don't want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, but we are not planning anything other than going for sanctions," she told Al-Arabiya television. "What we are focusing on is trying to change Iranian behaviour, and the international community has been united in trying to send a message to Iran that it is time for it to clarify its intentions," she said. "We want to try to get the strongest sanctions we can out of the United Nations Security Council ... mostly to influence their decision-making," said Clinton, interviewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday at the end of a Gulf tour. On Israel's refusal to rule out the military option against its arch-foe Iran, which denies charges of aiming to build a nuclear bomb, she said "there are many countries in the region who are very worried about Iran's actions. "And there may well be those who think, well, we have to do something to protect ourselves," said Clinton, But Washington believes "the better approach is to join at the international community, to work together toward sanctions, to exert maximum pressure on the Iranians, and to try every way we can to change their thinking."

Meanwhile, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in the Jordanian capital on Tuesday that Washington has not ruled out military action. "The priority for President (Barrack) Obama and his administration has been to initiate a dialogue and engagement while at the same time keeping all options on the table," he said. "When I say all options are on the table it certainly includes potential military options," Mullen said. Clinton, spelt out the failure of the Obama administration to engage with the Islamic republic, which has already defied three sets of UN sanctions by refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment. "When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that's what he's been trying to do -- reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership," she said. "And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama's outreach, has there not?" The secretary of state said the answer was that Tehran was increasingly coming under the control of the elite Revolutionary Guards at the expense of its clerical and political leadership Clinton said the option of strong sanctions, targeting in particular the Revolutionary Guards, was the chosen path. "It is our assessment that there is an opportunity still to try to convince Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons. And we've tried engagement, we've tried persuasion, we've tried fact-based argument," she said.

Moscow has delayed the delivery of advanced air defence missiles to Iran, Russian officials said Wednesday, in the latest sign of strained ties between Moscow and Tehran.

The announcement of the delay in the controversial contract to sell S-300 missiles to Iran came a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow in a bid to add new pressure on Iran.

"The delay is due to technical problems. The delivery will be carried out when they are resolved," Alexander Fomin, deputy head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told Interfax news agency.

Fomin, whose service oversees Russian arms exports, made the comments while attending a defence exhibition in New Delhi. He did not clarify what the problems were or how long it would take to fix them.

The engineer in charge of building the S-300s said there were nothing wrong with the missiles and called the delay a political decision.

"There are no technical problems with the S-300 systems. This is a political issue," Vladimir Kasparyants, head constructor of air defence systems at Almaz-Antey, the company that builds the S-300, told Interfax.

Russia's S-300 contract with Iran has raised hackles in the United States and Israel, which believe that Tehran could use the missiles to defend its nuclear facilities against attack.

Western powers suspect that Iran is seeking to build an atomic bomb under the guise of its civilian nuclear energy programme, although Tehran says the programme is peaceful in nature.

Neither the United States nor Israel have ruled out air strikes in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Analysts say that S-300s could greatly complicate such air strikes.

Russia has shown growing impatience with Iran as tensions have mounted in the standoff over Tehran's nuclear programme, after years in which the two countries enjoyed friendly ties.

On Tuesday, Russia joined the United States and France in criticising a new push by Iran to step up uranium enrichment, and Moscow said it could not exclude a new round of sanctions against Iran.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met Tuesday with Netanyahu, the prime minister of Iran's arch-foe Israel.

Netanyahu came to Moscow seeking to win the Kremlin's support for "biting sanctions" against Iran, and he has also been outspoken in his criticism of Russia's S-300 sale to the Islamic Republic.

Russia has been secretive about the missile contract, but Interfax has reported that it calls for Moscow to sell Tehran five batteries of S-300PMU1 missiles for 800 million dollars (530 million euros).

The S-300PMU1 -- codenamed the SA-20 Gargoyle by NATO -- is a mobile system designed to shoot down aircraft and cruise missiles.

Iran has expressed frustration with the delay in the missile delivery, and last week a top Iranian military commander said Tehran would build its own air defence missiles that would be even better than the S-300s.

Separately, Iran announced on Wednesday that it had arrested two Russian nationals last week on the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic revolution and that one of them would face charges.

One of the Russians "was arrested for illegal entry into the country and referred to the judiciary" while the other was released, Tehran's prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolarabadi told ISNA news agency.


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