Putin says missile deal with Syria still under discussion (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 01/28/05 1:11 PM ET)
AFP} Agence France Presse
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JERUSALEM (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said the proposed
sale of surface-to-air missiles to Syria was still under discussion
despite US and Israeli opposition, in an interview.
Putin told the English language Jerusalem Post that Russia would
never upset the Middle East´s regional balance but said any sale of
the controversial anti-aircraft missiles could be allowed
for "defensive purposes."
"While we´re talking about supplies of weapons to countries in the
region, such a supply should be understood in the light of supporting
defensive capacities, as in Syria," he said.
Israel and the United States have both expressed disquiet about a
possible sale of the Russian-made SA-18 missiles, fearing that they
could end up in the hands of the Damascus-backed Hezbollah Shiite
"First of all, we understand and are committed to maintaining the
balance of forces in the region. We understand our responsibilities.
We have not taken a single step to violate that balance and we will
follow that pattern in the future," said the Russian president.
"Second of all, we won´t bring to the region weapons that can be used
by terrorists or that can be transferred to terrorists without
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who met with Putin in Moscow this
week, has said any missile system would be for defensive purposes.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke by phone with Putin last
week when it was understood that he urged the Russian leader not to
conclude any deal during Assad´s visit.
Putin said the missile sale was still under discussion "with all
participants (in)... the Middle East settlement, including frankly
and openly with our Israeli partners." (Copyright © 2005 Agence
France Presse. 01/28/05)
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