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Iran official warns Russia of legal action over S-300

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran can take legal action if Russia refuses to fulfill its commitments to deliver an advanced missile defense system to the Islamic Republic, a senior military official said on Tuesday.

Iranian officials have voiced growing irritation at Russia’s failure so far to supply the S-300 missile system, which Israel and the United States do not want Tehran to have.

“The Russians, surely under the pressure of the Zionist lobby and America, refuse to fulfill their commitments,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian as saying.

“And because this is an official agreement it can be pursued through international legal bodies,” said Mansourian, who is deputy head of Iran’s air defenses.

Moscow, which is under Western pressure to distance itself from Iran over a long-running dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, has not followed through on proposals to ship the missiles to Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Russia last month for not providing the S-300 to Iran. Like Israel, Washington has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row over Iran’s nuclear program.

The West suspects Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says it only seeks to generate electricity.

The truck-mounted S-300PMU1, known in the West as the SA-20, can shoot down cruise missiles and aircraft. It can fire at targets up to 150 km (90 miles) away.

Iranian officials say the country can produce a S-300-style system by itself, if Russia does not deliver it. Iranian media say a new anti-aircraft defense system will be tested during war games this week.

In another possible source of strain in Moscow-Tehran ties, Russia earlier this month announced the latest delay to Iran’s first nuclear power station. It said technical issues would prevent its engineers from starting up the Bushehr plant reactor on the Gulf coast by the year’s end.

Diplomats say Russia uses the Bushehr reactor, and major arms contracts, as levers in relations with Tehran.

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security council, has backed three sets of mild sanctions on Iran since 2006 over its nuclear work. But it has so far blocked any strong measures against its traditional ally.

A senior MP last week said Russia was using the Islamic Republic as a “pawn” in Moscow’s dealings with other powers such as the United States.

But the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Tuesday that work on Bushehr was progressing as planned.

“The West is trying to harm our relations with Russia ... the reactor is progressing based on our agreements and Russia is doing more than it should. The Bushehr plant will be inaugurated in 2010,” ILNA news agency quoted Ali Akbar Salehi as saying.

Reporting by Parisa Hafezi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Diana Abdallah