Saudi offers Russia arms deal to curb Iran ties-paper
Reuters North American News
MOSCOW, July 15 (Reuters) -
Saudi Arabia has offered to award Russia lucrative arms contracts if the
Kremlin curtails cooperation with Iran, a Russian newspaper said on Tuesday,
but Moscow denied the offer was tied to relations with Tehran.
Saudi Prince Bandar bin
Sultan met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
in Moscow for
talks on Monday that included the signing of a landmark deal on military
A Russian government
spokesman denied the deal was linked to Iran
and said any attempt to tie cooperation with Riyadh to other issues was "not right
and not proper".
Kommersant, a respected Russian daily,
said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal
suggested Russia curtail
cooperation with Iran at a Moscow meeting this
February. The proposal was made in the name of King Abdullah, the paper said.
It said Bandar, who heads Saudi Arabia's National Security Council and is
an influential former ambassador to Washington,
fleshed out the proposal when he met Kremlin leaders this week.
cooperation between Russia
and Saudi Arabia
has an independent dimension," the Russian government spokesman said by
"It is founded on
mutual interest and to tie this dimension of cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia with any other
questions is absolutely not right and not proper," he said.
Observers say world and
regional powers are involved in hard bargaining behind the scenes over Iran's nuclear programme, with possible trade-offs involving arms sales
and competition for influence in the world's biggest oil producing region.
Oil prices are at record
levels in dollar terms, driven in part by surging demand from emerging nations
and by rising cash inflows into commodities from investors seeking to hedge
against inflation and the weak dollar.
RUSSIA EYES MIDDLE EAST
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil
producer and a close U.S.
ally, is wary of Iran's
ambitions and shares Western concerns that Tehran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
says its nuclear programme is peaceful.
Russia, which has tried to boost
cooperation with Tehran, says there is no
evidence Iran wants to build
a nuclear weapon but Moscow
fears a conflict in the region would stoke instability close to its southern
Kommersant said Saudi Arabia
was interested in buying 150 T-90 tanks, 160 helicopters and air-defence systems for more than $2.2 billion.
arms exporter, seeking an inroad into a market that has been lucrative for Britain and
other Western powers, declined to comment.
Bandar told Putin on Monday that ties with Moscow had become strategic and that he would
propose the King's ideas for the economic, military, energy and security
"The Kingdom's policy
is certainly always to diversify its sources of arms," Bandar told Al Arabiya television.
Russia, with its rising oil
income, has been trying to increase its influence in the Middle
East. It had played a bigger role there before the collapse of the
"Russia is also developing its relations, its
dialogue, with other countries in the region, including Iran," Russia's government spokesman said.
Moscow is helping Tehran
build its first nuclear power station and Putin
visited both Tehran and Riyadh last year. (Editing by Ralph