|Kuala Lumpur, July 8, IRNA -- The Russian Embassy in Malaysia is working on new dates for the visit of President Vladimir Putin, who put off his arrival here Tuesday following Saturday's suicide bombing incident in Moscow that killed over a dozen people including the bombers.|
Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign a $900 million deal to supply 18 Sukhoi fighter aircraft to Malaysia when he visits the country for one day next Tuesday. Putin will ink three pacts – the sale of Sukhoi Su-30MK warplanes and two agreements on science, technology and communications – in the first visit by a Russian leader to Malaysia, the foreign ministry said on Friday.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder visited in May and French President Jacques Chirac is expected soon. Like leaders in Europe, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad firmly opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, preferring a United Nations solution.
Malaysia said in May it agreed in principle to buy the fighters – described as the most powerful warplanes to be operated in Southeast Asia – as part of its arms modernisation programme. They are due for delivery in the middle of 2006. Aircraft maker Boeing Co is also in talks to sell Malaysia up to 18 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters, although that $1 billion deal has become hostage to politics because of Malaysia's position over the war in Iraq, analysts say.
Washington is upset with Mahathir for his scathing criticism of the war, while Malay Muslims' distress over the conflict makes it hard for the country to buy U.S. jets right now. Kuala Lumpur may partly pay for the Sukhois with the sale of palm oil, but this will be decided later, Defence Minister Najib Razak has said.
Defence analysts say Malaysia has to consider a range of defence threats, albeit distant ones, including potential flare-ups with neighbouring Thailand or disputes with several countries, including China, over rights to the Spratly islands. The country has traditionally also been keen to keep up with its southern neighbour, Singapore, which is planning to purchase its own batch of new-technology fighters.
Putin will meet the Malaysian king as well as Mahathir during his visit.