Vladimir Putin yesterday issued a thinly-veiled threat to arm Iran with missile defences if the West attacks Syria.

The Russian leader said Moscow had provided elements of the S-300 military technology to Syria but had frozen further shipments, suggesting they could be routed elsewhere.

That was widely seen as a threat to revive a contract for delivery of the S-300s to Iran, which Russia cancelled several years ago under strong US and Israeli pressure.

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Warning the West: Putin sought to downplay the current chill in the U.S.-Russian relations and said that the two countries need to cooperate on a range of issues in the interests of global stability

Warning the West: Putin sought to downplay the current chill in the U.S.-Russian relations and said that the two countries need to cooperate on a range of issues in the interests of global stability

Assisting the enemy: The U.S. says Russia has provided military support to Assad that has allowed him to cling to power during Syria's roughly 2-year-long civil war

Assisting the enemy: The U.S. says Russia has provided military support to Assad that has allowed him to cling to power during Syria’s roughly 2-year-long civil war

Mr Putin’s intervention came ahead of a G20 summit he is hosting today in St Petersburg, in which he is expected to hold a difficult one-to-one meeting with David Cameron.

The S-300 system, which targets aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, would make military attempts to stop Iran building a nuclear bomb all but impossible without a ground invasion.

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