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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Israel to warn Russia on missiles
Iskander missile
President Putin says militants will not be able to use the missiles
Israeli PM Ariel Sharon says he will ask Russia to stop a planned missile sale to Syria because he fears terrorists could acquire the weapons.

He is expected to urge Vladimir Putin to reject it when the Russian leader makes a historic visit next week.

Mr Putin has said the anti-aircraft missiles are for defensive purposes and will not threaten Israel's security.

But Israel has repeatedly said the weapons could end up with militant groups that have ties to Syria.

Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have offices in Syria, which also sponsors the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Mr Sharon told Israeli radio he was not in a position to intervene in "Russia's sale of weapons to other countries" but he would make his fears clear to the visiting Russian president.

"What concerns us about the shoulder-fired missiles, the anti-aircraft missiles, is that these missiles could fall into the hands of terror organizations," he said.

'Defensive purposes'

In an interview with Israeli TV, President Putin sought to calm Israeli worries.

He said the missiles would be mounted on vehicles and therefore could not be converted into the shoulder-fired rockets favoured by militant groups.

The anti-aircraft weapons would only be used to bolster Syria's air defences, he said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is said to have been irate when low-flying Israeli jets circled his palace in 2003.

Mr Putin acknowledged the missile sale would "make more difficult the possibility of flying over the residence of the president of Syria".

He will become the first Russian leader to visit Israel.




SEE ALSO:
Abbas win kindles press hopes
10 Jan 05 |  Middle East
Palestinians meet Syria's Assad
07 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Sharon rejects talks with Syria
02 Dec 04 |  Middle East
Timeline: Syria
08 Dec 04 |  Country profiles


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