Russia denies its help to Iran to develop missiles

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday dismissed a report claiming Moscow helped Iran obtain missile technology. Lavrov said the Russian government had thoroughly investigated all such claims that appeared over the past years. He also hinted that Iran had been assisted by Western companies at earlier stages of its nuclear program.

"If we go deeper in history and look at who did what, there would be more questions related to Western companies," Lavrov said at a briefing. He did not elaborate.

His comments came a day after London's Sunday Telegraph reported, without citing sources, that former Russian military members had covertly helped Iran obtain missile technology, acting as mediators between Iran and North Korea according to a deal they clinched in 2003.

The report said Western intelligence officers believe the technology would allow Iran to develop missiles with a range of 2,200 miles (3,520 kilometers).

Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, on a visit to India Monday, also dismissed allegations that Moscow helped Tehran build weapons of mass destruction.

Russia sold some conventional weapons to Iran during the 1990s, but Moscow denied consistently that it had transferred any ballistic missile technology to Tehran.

Lavrov said global attention must now focus on efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation risks. "It's our common task to ensure the inviolability of the nonproliferation regime," he said.

Russia has said it shares the goal of preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear arms capability but differs on the tactics. Moscow has been at the center of the dispute since it is building a US$800 million (Ђ600 million) nuclear reactor in the Iranian city of Bushehr that is scheduled for launch by the end of 2006. Russian officials have insisted it couldn't be used for making weapons.


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