MOSCOW, June 29 (RIA Novosti) - Israel has intensified its efforts to prevent deliveries of Russian S-300 air defense systems to Iran under a 2007 contract, an Israeli newspaper said on Monday.
According to the Haaretz daily, "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and asked him to prevent the arms deal from going through."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met a week ago at the Paris Airshow with Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and reportedly "asked that he also intervene to prevent the arms sale."
Israel and the U.S. insist that the delivery of advanced air defense systems to Iran would undermine the military balance in the region, and Russia has until recently delayed the implementation of the deal.
Although Russian sources said in March that Iran had not yet received any S-300 air defense systems and the deal relied on the leadership in Moscow, Russia had reiterated its commitment to fulfill the contract, which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Haaretz said that during the visit of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Moscow several weeks ago, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the Israeli official that some payments under the contract had already been made.
Arms deliveries to Iran are also important to Russia because Moscow is quickly losing its positions on key Asian arms markets in China and India.
In light of the recent developments and ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama with his Russian counterpart next week, Israel has launched "intensive diplomatic efforts...in order to restore the earlier Russian commitment not to complete the deal," the newspaper said.
The latest version of the S-300 family is the S-300PMU2 Favorit, which has a range of up to 195 kilometers (about 120 miles) and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers.
It is considered one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system.