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    Iranian defense minister to visit Russia on Feb. 16

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    TEHRAN, February 14 (RIA Novosti) - Iran's Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar will arrive on February 16 in Moscow to discuss bilateral military-technical cooperation with Russia, the defense ministry of the Islamic Republic said on Saturday.

    "During his trip to Russia, the Iranian defense minister will hold talks with the Russian officials and visit a number of defense industry companies," the ministry said in a statement.

    "The main purpose of the visit is the expansion of bilateral [military-technical] ties and implementation of existing agreements in the military-technical sector," the statement said.

    There has been significant media speculation of late concerning possible negotiations between Moscow and Tehran on the delivery of S-300 air defense systems to the Islamic Republic, although Russia have consistently dismissed these rumors.

    The advanced version of the S-300 missile system, called S-300PMU1 (SA-20 Gargoyle), has a range of over 150 kilometers (over 100 miles) and can intercept ballistic missiles and aircraft at low and high altitudes, making the system an effective tool for warding off possible air strikes.

    Media reports on possible S-300 delivery to Iran have alarmed the U.S. and Israel, which have consistently refused to rule out the possibility of military action against Tehran. The systems could greatly improve Iranian defenses against any air strike on its strategically important sites, including nuclear facilities.

    Iran recently took delivery of 29 Russian-made Tor-M1 air defense missile systems under a $700-million contract signed in late 2005. Russia has also trained Iranian Tor-M1 specialists, including radar operators and crew commanders.

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