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Why Russia is cutting off major arms sales to Iran

Russia, a major global arms dealer, decided Wednesday to nix a controversial arms sale that would have given Iran missiles.

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A Russian S300 missile launched from Priozorsk, Russia, in 1992.

VLADIMIR GERDO/AFP/Newscom

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After months of sending conflicting signals about whether Russia would fulfill a controversial contract to supply advanced S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Iran, the Kremlin has ordered a halt to all sales of sophisticated Russian weaponry to the Islamic Republic.

A decree signed by President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday bans the supply of battle tanks, armored vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, warplanes, military helicopters, ships, and missiles – including S-300 air defense systems – to Iran as part of measures to bring Russia into compliance with tough sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council in June.

Iran has purchased more than $5 billion in Russian weaponry over the past decade, including Tor-M1 short-range antiaircraft missiles, warplanes, submarines, and armored vehicles.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said unspecified defense cooperation with Iran would continue, despite the end of major arms sales. "There are other directions," he told journalists.

The ban on weapons sales has been praised by the US and Israel, but was angrily denounced by Iran, which has felt increasingly alienated over the past year by Mr. Medvedev's Westward foreign policy drift.

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