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Russia ends missions using Iranian air base 'for now'

Atta Kenare, AFP | Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, announces that Russia’s raids on Syria from one of its airbases had ended, in Tehran on August 22, 2016

Iran said Monday that Russian raids on Syria from one of its airbases had ended for now, shortly after accusing Moscow of "showing off" when it revealed the bombing missions.


"It was a specific, authorised mission and it's over for now. They conducted it and they are gone now," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran.

He left open the possibility of future Russian combat flights from Iran, saying it would depend on "the situation in the region, and according to our permission."

That came a few hours after defence minister Hossein Dehghan made a rare public criticism of Russia for revealing that its warplanes were using Iran's Hamedan airbase to attack insurgents in Syria.

"Naturally, the Russians are keen to show that they are a superpower and an influential country and that they are active in security issues in the region and the world," Dehghan told Iran's Channel 2 television.

"There has been a kind of showing-off and inconsiderate attitude behind the announcement of this news," he said.

Iran and Russia are key backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but Tehran has remained relatively guarded about its precise involvement in the conflict.

The Islamic republic is highly sensitive to any suggestion that it would allow foreign militaries to be based in its territory, which is outlawed under its constitution, and has emphasised that Russian planes were only refuelling in Iran.

"(Russia) needed to refuel in an area closer to the operation. That's why they used the Nojeh base (in Hamedan) but we have definitely not given them a military base," said Dehghan.

The flights from Iranian territory started on August 16. They were a major shift, significantly shortening flight-times for Russian warplanes, allowing them to carry increased firepower.

Russia said it struck targets linked to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra jihadist groups in Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib.

Moscow had previously used short-range craft stationed at its Hmeimim airbase outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, as well as ships in the Caspian Sea and a submarine in the Mediterranean, to bombard Syrian territory.

Tehran oversees thousands of troops fighting for Assad on the ground, while Russia provides airpower. Both oppose calls for Assad to step down as a way of resolving the conflict that has killed more than 290,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.


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