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    U.S. sanctions against Russian companies unrelated to WMD-Ivanov

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    Russia's defense minister said Monday U.S. sanctions against Russia's state arms exporter and a state-owned aircraft manufacturer were unrelated to nonproliferation issues.

    ST. PETERSBURG, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's defense minister said Monday U.S. sanctions against Russia's state arms exporter and a state-owned aircraft manufacturer were unrelated to nonproliferation issues.

    Moscow and Washington have clashed in the past over Iran - Russia has a contract to supply air defense systems to the Islamic Republic and is helping to build a nuclear power plant there - and on Friday the U.S. State Department announced the introduction of sanctions against Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi Corporation over their cooperation with Iran.

    But Sergei Ivanov, who is also a deputy prime minister, said the sanctions had no relation to concerns over weapons of mass destruction.

    "As for the sanctions imposed by the State Department against Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi, I can state definitely that these sanctions have no relation whatsoever to the issue of nonproliferation," he said.

    The move came against the backdrop of the long-running saga around Iran's nuclear programs. Some countries, led by the United States, suspect Tehran of using them as a cover for a secret weapons program. Iran has consistently stated that it only wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday slamming the U.S. move.

    "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," it said.

    Ivanov said in May that Russia was ready to sell weapons to any country that had not violated international regulations and intended to strictly observe the conditions of each arms deal.

    "Russia always meets it obligations under contracts, and not only in the military sphere," he said, adding that Russia will also honor its commitments to supply Tor-M1 air defense systems to Tehran.

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