10/30/2006, 00.00
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Russia becomes top arms supplier to the developing world

China, India and Iran are main buyers. With sales worth US$ 7 billion, Russia outsells the US's US$ 6.2 billion which is also behind France's US$ 6.3 billion.

Washington (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Russia has overtaken the United States as the top arms supplier to the developing world, a report by the US Congressional Research Service shows. Russia and France have taken full advantage of emerging markets and opportunities created by booming oil prices. China, India and Iran are the main buyers.

According to the report, the US share of the arms transfer market dropped from 35.4 per cent to 20.5 per cent between 2004 and last year. The value of these deals fell from US$ 9.4 billion to US$ 6.2 billion.

By contrast, Russia made US$ 7 billion last year selling weaponry to Asia, Africa and Latin America, a notable increase from US$ 5.4 billion in 2004.

This has propelled Russia to the position of the top arms supplier to the developing world.

France rose to second place, last year signing US$ 6.3 billion worth of deals for delivery of military hardware, up from just US billion in 2004.

France's success is attributable to a US$ 3.5 billion agreement with India for the sale of six Scorpene diesel attack submarines.

US congressional experts also predicted that an aggressive sales pitch by Paris could eventually conflict with key interests of the US and its allies as France usually pursues its national interests rather than NATO alliance considerations.

"The potential exists for policy differences between the United States and major West European countries supplying specific states with weapons," warned Richard Grimmett, the main author of the report.

Russia's rise to the top of the world arms business was fuelled by its booming trade with the two emerging Asian giants—India and China—as well as Iran, a client whose buying power was greatly enhanced by high oil prices.

Last year, Russia agreed to sell India 24 SA-19 air defence systems for US$ 400 million and Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems for US$ 500 million, the report said.

Moscow will also overhaul an Indian diesel submarine for about US$ 100 million.

In addition to fulfilling its long-term sales agreement with China for Su-27 jet fighters, destroyers and submarines, Russia also agreed last year to sell China 30 IL-76TD military transport aircraft and eight aerial refuelling tankers for more than US$ 1 billion.

Iran, meanwhile, fearing US air strikes against its nuclear facilities, is buying 29 SA-15 Gauntlet air defence systems for more than US$ 700 million from Russia.

Moscow, the report says, also agreed last year to upgrade Iran's Su-24 and MiG-29 aircraft as well as its T-72 main battle tanks.

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