Moscow Tells Israel It Will Tighten Its Export Controls on Weapons

Order apparently directed mainly against Syria, intended to prevent transfer of arms to Hezbollah.

Moscow has told Israel that it intends to tighten its export controls on arms. The statement follows Israeli claims that Russian weapons reached Hezbollah during the war in Lebanon.

The Russian statement, couched in very general terms, acknowledged a need for stricter arms export controls to ensure that weapons reach the designated end user and no one else.

For all intensive purposes, the order is directed mainly against Syria, and intended to prevent the transfer of Russian arms to Hezbollah and other terror groups.

It may also be seen as a Russian gesture toward Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who will visit Moscow Tuesday.

About a month ago, after the war in Lebanon, an Israeli delegation of defense experts, headed by Deputy Director General of the Foreign Ministry Mark Sofer and Ambassador to Russia Arkady Milman, visited Russia.

The delegation told senior Russian foreign affairs and defense officials that Russian arms that had been sold to Syria, especially antitank missiles, had reached Hezbollah and were used against Israel in the recent conflict in Lebanon.

The new Russian directive says that any state that buys Russian arms will be subject to strict supervision, and Russian delegations will be able to visit to verify that the arms are appropriately used and not transferred contrary to the agreement.

Olmert's two-day visit will include meetings with President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and, if time permits, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. The talks will focus on Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran and the United Nations Security Council's difficulties in imposing sanctions on Tehran.

Russian sources said that each party is expected to stick to its position in the talks.

Russia will say that all the aid it provides Iran, especially in building the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, is intended for civilian needs and is being supervised by the international and Russian atomic energy agencies.

The sources said Russia will also insist that it has no interest in helping Iran obtain nuclear arms and, in concert with the international community, is doing everything possible to prevent this.

Israel will urge Russia to take a firmer line on Iran and stop blocking every attempt to impose significant sanctions on it.

Olmert will also raise Jewish issues relevant to relations with Russia.

The Prime Minister will meet with several dozens of bereaved parents of IDF soldiers who were killed on duty. In a separate meeting, he is scheduled to meet with parents of current IDF soldiers.

Olmert also plans to visit Moscow's central synagogue on Archipova Street, which is commemorating its 100th anniversary. The synagogue has recently been funded in part by controversial businessman Arcadi Gaydamak.

Olmert was advised to visit another synagogue as well, funded in part by businessman Lev Leviev.