Iran says Russian use of air base for Syria strikes over ‘for now’

Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan chides Moscow for publicizing the move

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Monday that Russia has stopped using an Iranian airbase for strikes in Syria, a week after Moscow announced that its fighter bombers had flown from a base in Iran to hit targets in Syria.

Still image shows shows airstrikes carried out by Russian air force in Syria

A still image, taken from video footage and released by Russia’s Defense Ministry on August 18, 2016, shows a Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber based at Iran’s Hamadan air base dropping off bombs in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation/Handout via REUTERS TV

“Russia has no base in Iran and is not stationed here. They did this (operation) and it is finished for now,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

Long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Nojeh air base, near the city of Hamedan, in north-west Iran to launch the air strikes last week, in a move which underscored Moscow’s increasingly close ties with Tehran.

But the deployment – the first time a foreign power has used an Iranian base since World War Two – triggered criticism from some Iranian parliamentarians who said it breached the Islamic Republic’s constitution.

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan dismissed that criticism on Sunday, but also chided Moscow for publicising the move, describing it as showing off and a “betrayal of trust.”

“We have not given any military base to the Russians and they are not here to stay,” Dehghan was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.

He said there has been “no written agreement” between the two countries and the “operational cooperation” was temporary and limited to refueling.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Dominic Evans)



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