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Monday, November 29, 2010

Russia Sought Israeli Drones to Stop Iran Arms Deal, Leak Shows

November 29, 2010, 12:37 PM EST
 By Henry Meyer

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Russia told Israel it would cancel the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran in return for access to advanced Israeli drone technology, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable provided to Le Monde by

Russia also offered $1 billion for the technology, Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said during a Dec. 1, 2009, meeting with U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, Paris-based Le Monde reported today, citing the cable sent by an unidentified U.S. diplomat.

Israel declined to provide Russia with its latest unmanned aircraft, saying it was concerned the technology would end up in Chinese hands, Gilad said, according to Le Monde. Russia in September canceled an $800 million contract to supply an S-300 air-defense battery to Iran after the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions against the Persian Gulf nation.

WikiLeaks, a nonprofit group that releases information the government wants to keep confidential, has begun posting on its website what it says are more than 250,000 U.S. State Department documents written from December 1966 to February 2010. Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson declined to confirm information in the documents, saying it is the agency’s policy not to comment on specific leaked materials.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declined to comment when asked about the reported Russian offer. Netanyahu said at a news conference in Tel Aviv today that Israel “has not been damaged at all” by the material released by WikiLeaks.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s administration found “nothing interesting” in the cables published by WikiLeaks, Interfax cited Medvedev spokeswoman Natalya Timakova as saying. Igor Yevdokimov at the Foreign Ministry’s press service said he couldn’t comment on the WikiLeaks documents before tomorrow.

The Kremlin said in June that the S-300s were covered by the new UN sanctions, which banned sales of weaponry including fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships or missiles.

Delivery of the S-300 missiles would “represent a significant increase in the defense capability of Iranian forces,” U.S. Army General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 16, when he was commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed a defense cooperation agreement with Russia on Sept. 6. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at the time that Russia had already bought Israeli drones and it was interested in equipping the unmanned planes with Russian laser technology.

WikiLeaks provided advance access to the documents to news organizations including Le Monde, The New York Times, the London-based Guardian, Madrid-based El Pais and Hamburg-based Der Spiegel.

--With assistance from Lyubov Pronina in Moscow, Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv, and Viola Gienger and Miles Weiss in Washington. Editors: Willy Morris, Ken Fireman

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Willy Morris at

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Israeli Military Unveils Drone Fleet

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