'No warplanes' for Syria says Russian arms sales boss

MOSCOW. February 13. KAZINFORM Russia's state-run arms dealer Rosoboronexport is supplying air-defense missile systems and maintenance and servicing equipment to Syria but not combat aircraft, the company's director Anatoly Isaikin said on Wednesday, RIA Novosti said.

Russia and Syria have previously signed a contract for delivery to Damascus of Yak-130 Mitten jet trainers, but it has been suspended, he added.

The company still has some other outstanding contracts with Syria, Isaikin said, but did not provide any details, citing commercial confidentiality. Syria is the 13th or 14th largest buyer of Russian arms, he said, without elaborating.

Russia and the United States were involved in a diplomatic war of words last year over Moscow's arms sales to Syria, after Washington accused Russia of supplying attack helicopters to the al-Assad regime. Moscow denied those accusations, claiming it was merely returning equipment overhauled as part of long-standing contracts with Syria, which is locked in a bitter civil war between the government and Islamist rebels.

In July, US lawmakers passed a bill breaking off contracts between the Pentagon and Rosoboronexport, which they claimed was "arming the oppressive Syrian regime," the House of Representatives said on its website. That bill, introduced by Democrat Congressman Jim Moran, was passed by an overwhelming 407-5 vote and was attached to the 2013 US military budget.

According to US lawmakers, Rosoboronexport supplied nearly $1 billion worth of arms to Syria in 2011, including high-explosives, mortars, sniper rifles, ammunition and attack helicopters which could have been used by Assad's forces to kill civilians.

Isaikin said a $4.5 billion arms contract Russia signed with Iraq in 2012 remains intact but has "yet to go into force." Cooperation with Iran continues and Russia has resumed dealings with Libya, Isaikin said, adding it has not lost a single contract with Egypt.

He also claimed a Russian-US follow-on contract for the delivery of 12 Mi-171 helicopters to Afghanistan will be carried out, despite the US Congress' recommendations against cooperation with Rosoboronexport.

The US Senate passed the Cornyn amendment in December, barring the use of American budget funds to purchase goods - including helicopters for Afghanistan - from Rosoboronexport. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned at the time that the measure might affect the Afghan helicopter deal.

Rosoboronexport was subject to US sanctions from 2006 to 2010 for allegedly providing nations including Iran and Syria with equipment that could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Russia's Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service (FSMTC) said in January Moscow sold a record $15.16 billion worth of arms in 2012, while expanding its foreign client list.

India is the leading purchaser of Russian arms, with Myanmar, Vietnam, Venezuela and Middle East countries also among the Russian defense industry's main clients. Russia's expanded list of its clients in 2012 included Afghanistan, Ghana, Oman, and Tanzania.

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