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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 15:55 GMT
Israel condemns Russia arms plan
Sylvan Shalom and Javier Solana
Solana said the deal could disrupt peace efforts in the Middle East
Israel's foreign minister has urged Russia not to go ahead with alleged plans to sell missiles to Syria.

Israel is said to be concerned about the possible sale of modern missile systems and anti-aircraft weapons to one of its Arab neighbours.

Mr Silvan Shalom's comments were the first official confirmation that Israel had contacted Moscow about the issue.

Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov has denied that any talks on selling missiles to Damascus have taken place.

The Russian Kommersant newspaper said that the missiles in question were of the Iskander-E type - an upgraded version of the Soviet Scud missiles. If deployed, these missiles can hit targets in most parts of Israeli territory.

But some reports say Israel is more concerned about the portable Igla anti-aircraft missiles.

"We spoke to the Russians and we asked them to scrap this contract," Mr Shalom said on Thursday, after a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Mr Shalom accused Syria of constantly supplying weapons to the militant Lebanese Shia Muslim group Hezbollah, which has attacked Israel in the past.

Mr Solana said such a deal could disrupt peace efforts and urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to consider its implications.

Denial

Earlier, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher warned Moscow that Washington could consider sanctions if Russia went ahead with such a deal.

But Russia insists it has never had intention to sell missiles to Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with US State Secretary Colin Powell on Wednesday, Mr Ivanov told Russian television: "There are no talks under way between Russia and Syria concerning shipment of such missiles. Such talks are not taking place."

The Russian and Israeli media say the missile issue has caused a crisis in bilateral relations ahead of a visit to Moscow by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But Mr Ivanov said such allegations always emerged whenever a Middle East leader visited Moscow.


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