Source Pravda.Ru

Russian analysts divided over possibility Moscow helped Iran with missile technology

A top, Kremlin-connected Russian legislator on Sunday denied that Moscow helped provided Iran with ballistic missile technology that would bring much of Europe within target range.

Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee of the lower house of parliament, called on Russian government agencies to quickly respond to a story that appeared in London's Sunday Telegraph and "exclude the spiraling of speculation," the Interfax news agency reported.

The Sunday Telegraph reported, without citing sources, that former Russian military members had covertly helped Iran obtain missile technology, acting as mediators between Iran and North Korea according to a deal they clinched in 2003.

It said that Western intelligence officers believe the technology would allow Iran to develop missiles with a range of 2,200 miles (3,520 kilometers), the AP reported.

Russian analysts were divided over the possibility that Moscow had aided Tehran in its alleged quest to develop such long-range missiles, and noted that the article appeared at a time when the United States and its European allies were campaigning hard to either to draw Iran back to diplomatic talks or invoke the threat of punishment from the U.N. Security Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed Saturday to get Moscow, which favors working through the U.N. nuclear watchdog, on board.

Mirsky called the report "absurd," saying that only an official organization would be able to transfer the technology and no one would dare do that without the Kremlin's permission.

Another expert said, however, that it was possible retired military officers had transferred some missile technology from the former Soviet Union. Still, said Ruslan Pukhov, chief of the Center for Strategic and Technological Analysis, that doesn't mean that the government of either Putin or his predecessor Boris Yeltsin had helped Iran acquire nuclear technology, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Independent expert Alexander Golts told the radio station that it was more likely that people tied with the Russian defense industry would be in a position to sell Iran missile technology _ just as they did to Iraq, he said.

A.M.