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U.S. sanctions related to Russia arms deals with Venezuela

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Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday U.S. sanctions against two Russian state-owned companies were linked with their contracts with Venezuela.
MOSCOW, August 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday U.S. sanctions against two Russian state-owned companies were linked with their contracts with Venezuela.

The U.S. State Department announced Friday the introduction of sanctions against Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and state-owned aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi over their cooperation with Iran.

A high-ranking official in the Defense Ministry said, "Obviously, this decision is a reaction to recent successes of our companies in concluding beneficial contracts on arms supplies to Venezuela."

Russia signed $1-billion contracts on supplies of 30 Su-30 Flanker air-superiority fighters and 30 helicopters to Venezuela in July prior to the visit to Russia by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has moved to curb American influence in the region and consolidate ties with other South American nations since he came to power in 1998.

The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed the U.S. sanctions Friday saying, "Our companies stand accused of violating the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. We consider these actions by the U.S. State Department unacceptable."

"Russian companies cooperating with other countries in the military-technical sphere are acting in strict compliance with the rules of international law, as well as Russian law, including Russia's obligations on nuclear nonproliferation and export control," the ministry said.

The source in the Defense Ministry also said the U.S. accusations that the Russian companies were supplying technologies, which Iran could use to produce weapons of mass destruction, were groundless.

"They [the companies] have violated no international obligations and the U.S. is well aware of this," he said.

The source called the U.S. sanctions "dishonest competition on the arms market."

Some countries, led by the United States, suspect Tehran of pursuing a secret weapons program. Iran has consistently stated that it only wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

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