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Russia says no new plan to sell air defense systems to Syria

WARSAW/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's foreign minister said on Friday Moscow had no new plans to sell an advanced air defense system to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but left open the possibility that it could ship such systems to Damascus under an existing contract.

The Wall Street Journal this week reported that Israel had informed the United States a Russian deal was imminent to sell S-300 missile systems that would significantly boost Syria's ability to stave off outside intervention in its civil war.

Asked by a journalist about the reports on a visit to the Polish capital, Lavrov said: "Russia is not planning to sell. Russia already sold them a long time ago. It has signed the contracts and is completing deliveries, in line with the agreed contracts, of equipment which is anti-aircraft technology."

The question referred to S-300 systems, but Lavrov in his reply did not specify whether the equipment already being delivered were S-300 complexes or another system.

He said the deliveries were in line with international law and for self-defense only.

"It is designed so that Syria, as the importer, should have the ability to protect itself from air strikes, something that is not an entirely fantastical scenario," Lavrov told a news conference.

Russia is Syria's main arms supplier and has continued fulfilling defense contracts despite the civil war in Syria.

The Wall Street Journal, in its report about the missile systems, quoted U.S. officials as saying they were analyzing the information about a deal, but would not comment on whether they believed the sale of S-300 missile batteries was near.

(Reporting by Jason Bush in Moscow and Piotr Pilat in Warsaw, Writing by Christian Lowe, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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