By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
The Associated Press
Saturday, August 5, 2006; 7:14 PM
MOSCOW -- Russia's state-controlled arms trader and top aircraft maker criticized Washington Saturday for imposing sanctions on them over dealings with Iran. The defense ministry said the move reflected U.S. annoyance at arms sales to Venezuela.
The companies _ Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi _ were among seven companies Washington said violated a U.S. law known as the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. The law is aimed at preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction to Tehran.
The announcement was made in the U.S. Federal Register, which reports on official federal actions. The U.S. State Department had no comment on the sanctions announced Friday.
Under the sanctions, the U.S. government is now prohibited from dealing with any of the companies. Russia's Foreign Ministry has said the move would threaten future partnership between the two nations. The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday blasted the sanctions as "ungrounded."
"The sanctions apparently are a U.S. reaction to the Russian breakthrough on the Venezuelan arms market," it said in a statement carried by the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez visited Russia last month and sealed a deal to buy 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 53 military helicopters. Along with an earlier contract to manufacture Kalashnikov assault rifles, the deals were estimated to cost around $3 billion.
Those deals make Russia Venezuela's main arms supplier to the strong dismay of the United States, which banned arms sales to Venezuela in May.
Officials at Sukhoi, Russia's top manufacturer of fighter jets, said the company had not sold equipment to Iran since the 1990s.
"We haven't shipped any products to that country in the last eight to 10 years," Sukhoi spokesman Vadim Razumovsky said Saturday in televised remarks.
Sukhoi's deputy director, Alexander Klementyev, told Ekho Moskvy radio that Sukhoi had shipped some hardware to Iran in the 1990s through Rosoboronexport, Russia's top state-controlled arms exporter, but did not specify what items it sold.
Rosoboronexport director Sergei Chemezov said in a statement broadcast by Channel One television Saturday that his company only shipped defensive weapons to Iran in conformity with international law.
"Many foreign companies, including those from NATO member states, have conducted similar supplies," Chemezov said.
"The introduction of these sanctions could have a negative impact on the Russian-U.S. partnership in countering illegal supplies of counterfeit Russian-designed military gear to Iraq and Afghanistan," Chemezov said in an apparent reference to Soviet weapons produced without license in many countries across the globe.
Along with the two Russian companies, the Bush administration also imposed sanctions against two businesses from India, two from North Korea and one from Cuba.