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Friday, January 29, 2010     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Top Russian arms clients: India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Syria

MOSCOW — Algeria and Syria have been identified as leading defense clients of Russia.   

The state-owned arms export agency Rosoboronexport has identified Algeria and Syria as major defense clients of Moscow. Officials said the two Middle East countries played a significant role in Russian weapons exports during 2009.

"Our main customers are India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Syria," Rosoboronexport director-general Anatoly Isaikin said.

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In a briefing on Jan. 28, Isaikin did not detail Russian arms exports to Syria. Earlier, officials said Moscow was ready to deliver the MiG-30E fighter-jet to Damascus in 2010.

Algeria has been a leading client of Russia since 2006, when the two countries signed an $8 billion program to modernize the North African military. Since then, Rosoboronexport has overseen the delivery of nearly 30 Su-30MK fighter-jets, with plans to send air trainers later this year. Isaikin said Russia exported a total of $7.4 billion worth of military products in 2009. He said Rosoboronexport expected to maintain this sales level in 2010.

"This is a figure that allows us to look with optimism into the future," Isaikin said.

In 2008, Russia exported a record $8.35 billion in defense equipment. Officials cited the global fiscal crisis as well as U.S. pressure on potential clients as the reason for the downturn in sales.

Still, Rosoboronexport, with an order backlog of more than $34 billion, expected new clients over the next year, including Arab and other allies of the United States. Officials cited prospective defense sales to Iran and Iraq.

"Military officials from Iraq and Afghanistan do approach us for various arms supplies," Isaikin said. "We are ready to deliver, provided there is a corresponding [U.S.] decision and if funds are allocated."

Isaikin also cited Russian arms talks with Libya and Saudi Arabia. He reported the likelihood of Russian companies being awarded Saudi and Libyan defense projects.

"Currently intensive talks on supplies of all kinds of weapons are under way," Isaikin said.

In 2010, officials said, Rosoboronexport expected to resume defense exports to Iran. They said this would include the delivery of the first S-300PMU1 air defense batteries.

"There are no formal bans which would bar the delivery of any types of weapons to Iran," Isaikin said. "Iran has never violated a single commitment it has undertaken with regard to military contracts."

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