MOSCOW,(Reuters) – Russia has every right to sell arms to Iran, its defence minister said on Wednesday, responding to mounting criticism of a $1 billion deal announced last week.
The United States, calling Iran a "state sponsor of terror", said selling weapons to the Islamic Republic did not help the Middle East.
"This deal, this contract is absolutely legitimate. Like it or not, it”s our affair. There are plenty of things we don”t like either," Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said in comments shown on NTV television.
Moscow, already at odds with the West over its nuclear ties with Tehran, has stressed the deal concerns defensive weapons.
Western countries suspect Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian atomic programme, which Tehran denies, saying it wants only to generate electricity.
Diplomats have said the European Union is readying a protest about Russia”s sale of the TOR-M1s, which are designed to bring down aircraft and guided missiles at low altitudes.
"It is the established policy of the EU not to sell arms, including defensive arms, to Iran," said a draft copy seen by Reuters, which is awaiting comments from EU members and is likely to be amended.
Israel is particularly worried about Iran”s military potential after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in October that it should be "wiped off the map" — comments condemned by Russia at the time.
Foreign ministers from the "EU3" group of Britain, France and Germany are also planning to express their dismay at Iran”s apparent dismissal of a Russian proposal aimed at ending a stalemate over Tehran”s nuclear programmes, diplomats say.
Moscow had suggested Iran carry out sensitive uranium enrichment on Russian territory, but Tehran said it has the right to do this on its own soil.