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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete University Denies Assisting Iran Arms Drive

ST. PETERSBURG -- A St. Petersburg university hit with U.S. sanctions for assisting Tehran's missile program has denied the allegations and threatened to sue U.S. newspapers for libel.

The rector at Baltic State Technical University, Yury Savelyev, said Monday that the sanctions were costing the school millions of dollars.

"It is true that a group of 26 Iranians studied here," he said. "They studied subjects that have absolutely no connection to constructing missiles."

U.S. President Bill Clinton signed an executive order July 28 barring U.S. government assistance and trade to the St. Petersburg university and six other Russian enterprises just days after Iran tested a medium-range missile capable of reaching Israel and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.

Baltic State, a main training site for the Soviet Union's rocket and space forces in the 1980s, supplied vital technology for Iran's Shehab-3 and Shehab-4 missile programs, The Washington Times newspaper reported earlier this year.

Savelyev slammed the article and other media reports as "sheer libel" Monday and said Baltic State would start legal proceedings with two Washington law firms in September. He declined to identify the firms.

Savelyev said the Iranian students at the university studied subjects such as physics, math and the Russian language.

He said the students came to the school under a 10-year program with Tehran.

Pressure from the U.S. and Russian governments over the program has cost the university $2.5 million in extra revenue, Savelyev said.

He also said the school would lose an arms project costing "several hundred million dollars" because of the sanctions.

Other Russian establishments hit with the embargo are the MOSO company, Glavkosmos, the Grafit and Polyus research centers, the INOR scientific center and Europalace 2000.