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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

RUSSIA MAY REFUSE TO SELL STRELETS TO SYRIA

RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, February 17 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Defense Ministry is reconsidering selling a Strelets vehicle-mounted launcher for Igla-type air defense missiles to Syria, the ministry's information department announced Wednesday. The agreement stipulates that the system cannot be portably used and delivery of portable air defense systems Igla is forbidden, Vedomosti reported.

Strelets is a system of two Igla-S missiles with an individual power plant and control system, said a source in the Kolomna Design Bureau of Machine-Building, which designed it. Modules of up to four Strelets systems can be mounted onto helicopters, automobile and other undercarriage, as well as boats. However, it is not difficult to remove the missile from the system and fire it from an Igla system. The source said Strelets can be mounted on a jeep, which would increase its effectiveness compared to single-launch air defense missile systems.

International experts point out that Israel and the U.S. might interpret the sale of Strelets as violation of agreements on the non-proliferation of air defense missile systems, encouraging them to criticize Russia.

But the Center of Defense Problems' Marat Kenzhetayev said that international treaties do not prohibit the export of such systems, though there is a silent agreement that such weapons should not be sold to questionable clients. This agreement is based on the 2003 G8 resolution that calls for strengthening control over air defense missile systems.

Mr. Kenzhetayev said Syria could buy Strelets systems for $50-150 million. Ruslan Pukhov, an editor at the magazine Moscow Defense Brief, said that in 2003 Russia cancelled an Igla contract with Syria under Israeli pressure, and the same may happen now, especially in view of Syria's complicated international standing. (The U.S. has accused the country's authorities of contacts with international terrorism).



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