U.S. checking reports of Iran-Russian missile deal

The United States said Friday it was looking into reports that Russia and Iran had signed an agreement for Russia to provide Tor M-1 air defense systems to Iran.

According to the Russian Vedomosti business daily the agreement called for Russia to provide 29 Tor M-1 missiles originally manufactured on orders from Greece. The newspaper cited an unidentified manager at a military-industrial enterprise.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said "we are at this point evaluating these reports" and that he could not validate them. The United States and Russia are supporting efforts by the European Union to persuade Iran to halt development of nuclear weapons in exchange for economic incentives, such as trade opportunities.

Russia, which has a long and lucrative relationship with Iran, has offered to try to resolve a key dispute by offering to enrich uranium for an Iranian civilian nuclear energy program as a safeguard against Iran using enrichment for weapons purposes.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Wednesday that Bush administration had not endorsed the Russian proposal and that "we continue to take a hard line" on Iran not controlling a process that could produce nuclear weapons.

Burns said sidetracked negotiations between Iran and Britain, France and Germany probably would be resumed in early January, AP reports.

A. A.

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