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US ban on Russian arms exporter would harm ties: Lavrov

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 01:10 hrs

Brussels, Dec 5 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that a proposed US ban on deals with Russia's state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport would be detrimental to the development of bilateral cooperation.

The US Senate unanimously approved the Cornyn amendment to the defence budget, which bars the use of American taxpayer funds to purchase goods from Rosoboronexport, including helicopters to be flown in Afghanistan.

"I would avoid making any predictions. It is not a law, but rather an opinion of the Senate that has yet to pass all the necessary stages," Lavrov said after a Russia-NATO meeting in Brussels.

"We are certain that at least the US administration will draw the inevitable conclusion that the idea born in the Senate contradicts US national interests as well as the development of cooperation with Russia and the goals that we are trying to achieve in Afghanistan and around it," Lavrov said.

A similar bill cleared the US House of Representatives by overwhelming majority vote in July.

The ban may come into force as early as Jan 1, 2013, if President Barack Obama signs the 2013 fiscal budget proposal with respective amendments into law.

Rosoboronexport signed a $367.5 million deal with the US in May 2011 for delivery of 21 Mi-17V5 helicopters. All those helicopters have now been delivered, according to the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), a Moscow-based think-tank.

The break with the US could affect an option contract signed July 18 for a further 10 machines worth $171 million. Deliveries of the second batch were due by 2016.

Another potential contract that looks set to be lost is for ammunition supplies to Afghanistan. In April, five US defence firms invited Russia for the first time to become a subcontractor on the delivery of Russian-made ammunition for coalition forces in Afghanistan, Rosoboronexport said.

In June, US Senator John Cornyn called on the Pentagon to take action against Rosoboronexport, but the Pentagon dismissed his claims, saying that dealing with Russia's arms exporter was the "only legally available method" to supply the helicopters to Afghanistan.

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.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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