Iran will buy $7 billion in weapons from Russia

MOSCOW: Iran plans to purchase about $7 billion worth of Russian weapons in coming years, and will disregard US objections to the deals, the country's ambassador to Russia said in an interview published on Thursday.

Iranian weapons specialists also will be educated in Russia, Ambassador Mehdi Safari was quoted as saying in Russia's government newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta.

The interview came ahead of a planned visit to Moscow by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in March.

Russia sells tanks, armored vehicles, munitions and other weapons to Iran openly, and the US State Department has accused some Russian companies of exporting banned missile technology. Russia has denied the accusations.

Washington has also pushed Russia to stop selling conventional weapons, which technically would require Washington to impose sanctions on Russia under a 1992 US law banning trade with states accused of sponsoring terrorism.

Safari said he was pleased Russia has not bowed to US pressure, according to the newspaper.

"Russia and Iran are two strong states, and I assume our cooperation will strengthen regardless of the influence of third countries, much less such aggressive and self-assured ones as the United States," Safari was quoted as saying.

Safari also backed up Russian opposition to US plans to deploy a national missile defense system.

He said Iran, one of the so called "states of concern" the system is designed to protect against, poses no missile threat to the United States.

"We don't have a rocket that could overcome such a distance, we dont have the corresponding technology," he said.

Iran has built and tested several missiles, including the Shahab-3, which has a range of 1,306 kilometers (810 miles). Iran is about 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away from the United States.

The United States severed ties with Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, during which the US Embassy in Tehran was overrun and 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days. (AP)