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Russian 2006 arms exports reach a record $6.5 bln

Russia, the biggest supplier of weapons to developing countries, exported $6.5 bln of arms last year, a post-Soviet record for the seventh straight year.

Exports will probably increase to $8 billion this year, Mikhail Dmitriev, head of the Federal Service of Military and Technical Cooperation, told reporters in Moscow today. Russia plans to push for arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, following President Vladimir Putin's visit to the countries earlier this month. The Russian defense industry has $30 billion of orders from overseas, Dmitriev said. „Saudi Arabia is a particularly serious and promising partner,” Dmitriev said, without elaborating. Russia also plans to help Jordan upgrade its Soviet-made hardware and deliver new weapons including military transport aircraft. Dmitriev said Russia expects orders from United Arab Emirates on the newest S-400 air defense systems, in what can become a „serious project” between the two countries. Russia sells Pantsir-S1 missile systems to the UAE.

Russia led the world in arms exports to developing nations in 2005, ahead of the US, the world's largest arms exporter, according to the US. Congressional Research Service. Russia was the third-largest arms exporter in 2005 overall, after the US and France, the research service said. Russia signed $14 billion worth of new contracts last year that will allow it a steady flow of revenue in the coming years, Dmitriev said. Aircraft were the best-selling product, followed by air defense systems and naval systems. China and India were the biggest customers last year, accounting for 62% of all exports. Their share fell from 74% in 2005. Russia has been diversifying to other parts of the world, including the Middle East and north Africa, selling weapons to countries including Kuwait, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, Morocco and Libya, Dmitriev said. These areas may „at some point” be comparable with India and China, Dmitriev said. He said Russia is „not going to tease anyone and upset the balance” and only will act in line with the existing international agreements. The

US, the world's biggest arms merchant, twice sanctioned Russian arms-export agency Rosoboronexport last year for sales to Iran and Syria. The sanctions block US companies from doing business with Rosoboronexport. „Russia has never allowed any violations,” Dmitriev said. „The US sanctions, as has been said at all levels starting from the president, are groundless.” (Bloomberg)