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Russia may sell S-300 missiles to Venezuela, instead of Iran - analyst

RIA Novosti

13:30 15/10/2010

MOSCOW, October 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's S-300 air defense systems, which Moscow refused to deliver to Iran following a new round of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, could be sold to Venezuela instead, a Russian arms trade expert said on Friday.

Russia signed a deal to deliver five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defense systems to Iran in 2007 but banned the sale in September, saying the systems, along with a number of other weapons, were covered by the fourth round of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against Iran over its nuclear program in June.

"Russia is looking for a buyer of five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defense systems ordered by Iran, which are worth $800 million, and Venezuela could become such a buyer," said Igor Korotchenko, head of a Moscow-based think tank on the international arms trade.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is currently on a visit to Russia, earlier said his country was interested in buying different types of Russian-made air defense systems to create a multilayered air defense network.

Venezuela has already purchased 12 Tor-M1 air defense systems, a number of ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns and Igla-S portable short-range air defense systems from Russia.

The S-300PMU-1 (SA-20 Gargoyle) is an extended range version of S-300PMU with a limited anti-ballistic missile capability.

Korotchenko said that if the S-300 deal with Venezuela goes through, Caracas should pay cash for the missiles, rather than take another loan from Russia.

"The S-300 is a very good product and Venezuela should pay the full amount in cash, as the country's budget has enough funds to cover the deal," Korotchenko said.

Moscow has already provided Caracas with several loans to buy Russian-made weaponry, including a recent $2.2-mln loan on the purchase of 92 T-72M1M tanks, the Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and other military equipment.

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