WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday accused the Russian government of selling weapons to Iran, a nation Washington considers a "state sponsor of terrorism," but waived sanctions against Moscow in the US national interest.
At the same time, the State Department imposed penalties on a Russian government-owned company that it said had sold laser-guided artillery shells to Iran.
"The United States government has determined that the government of Russia transferred lethal military equipment to countries determined by the Secretary of State to be state sponsors of terrorism," the department said.
"The United States government further determined that, despite the transfers, furnishing assistance to the government of Russia is important to the national interests of the United States," it said in a notice published in the Federal Register.
Sanctions that could have been imposed included a blanket ban on US assistance to Moscow, according to a State Department official who added that the determination had been made on August 25 but not made public until Tuesday.
In the same Federal Register notice, the department imposed sanctions against the Russian firm Tula Design Bureau of Instrument Building (Tula KBP) for selling "lethal military assistance" to the Islamic Republic.
Those sanctions include a one-year ban on all US assistance, contracts and licenses to Tula KBP, the department said.
The United States has imposed sanctions against Tula KPB for arms sales to Iraq and Syria before.
In March, Tula was one of three Russian firms that US officials said had sold Iraq night-vision goggles, anti-tank missiles and satellite-jamming devices.
The United States has made similar charges against Russia in the past and has expressed deep and growing concerns about Russian cooperation with Iran's nuclear program which Washington believes is a cover for atomic weapons development.
The Russian government and the companies have repeatedly denied the charges.
The new determination is not related to Iran's nuclear program, the State Department official said.
The department lists seven nations - Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan - as "state sponsors of terrorism." Iraq is in the process of being removed from the list following the US ouster of Saddam Hussein.