Russian anti-aircraft missiles sold to Syria would pose no danger to the Israeli air force, but could put civil aviation in peril if they fell into "terrorist" hands, an Israeli official said Wednesday.
"These missiles will not alter the balance of strategic forces in the region and will not stop our air force from launching operations," said a senior source in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office.
He was speaking shortly before President Vladimir Putin was to arrive in Israel on the first official visit by a Russian head of state since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.
But the historic visit was likely to be overshadowed by Israeli complaints about Moscow's insistence on selling the anti-aircraft defences to Syria.
Putin has admitted that the short-range Strelets missiles would "complicate" the ability of Israeli pilots to fly at low-level over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's palace in Damascus, as they did in a show of force in 2003.
"These missiles pose a grave danger to civil aviation because Syria, which supports terrorist organisations, could give them to the Lebanese Hezbollah for example," the Israeli official told AFP.
"The Russians' argument that these missiles are mounted on vehicles and cannot be used as portable missiles, fired from the shoulder, do not hold. With modern technology it is very possible to modify them," the source said.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has said military experts had "proved concretely that this equipment cannot be used in man-portable mode and Israeli military personnel acknowledged this."
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Final Developmental Flight For US Navy's Coyote Target Missile Completed
Dulles VA (SPX) Apr 27, 2005
Orbital Sciences announced Tuesday that it successfully flight-tested the final development vehicle in the U.S. Navy's GQM-163A "Coyote" Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target (SSST) system for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on April 22, 2005.
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