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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jordan's King Tests Tula's Weapons

Jordan's King Abdullah II visited an elite paratroop division in Tula on Monday, during a trip aimed at urging a greater Russian role in the Mideast peace process.

Abdullah, on his first official visit to Russia, laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the Kremlin walls on Monday morning before leaving for Tula, a city 200 kilometers south of Moscow famed in the Soviet era for its weapons factories.

In Tula, the king visited a paratroop division and the Tula Instrument Design Bureau, a weapons producer that was expected to demonstrate the new Cornet-3 anti-tank defense complex, Itar-Tass reported.

ORT television showed the 39-year-old king, dressed in a dark suit, clambering aboard an armored vehicle to look inside, watching a shooting display and observing soldiers in training.

RIA news agency quoted a senior official at the arms factory as saying that the king wanted to personally test out weapons produced in the factory. He said Abdullah would be taken to their shooting range for this purpose.

Abdullah is a former commander of Jordan's Special Forces commando unit.

The factory official also said the king would be presented with a specially created hunting knife as a memento of his trip. Abdullah collects antique weapons.

The king was to meet Tuesday in Moscow with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin.

The visit is to include talks on boosting trade, and possibly on purchases of weapons. Russian news reports said the king may be interested in high-precision weapons for land forces, and in anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.

Jordan's 120,000-man army is partially equipped with Soviet weapons bought by Abdullah's late father, King Hussein, in the early 1980s. Its Russian-supplied arsenal includes air defense systems, tanks and machine guns.

But Russia may run into competition with the United States, which has boosted military aid to Jordan and given it the status of a non-NATO ally as a reward for Amman's 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Violence in the Middle East was expected to be a focus of Abdullah's talks with Putin and other Russian leaders. Jordanian diplomats in Moscow said prior to the visit that Jordan would like Russia to come up with concrete peace proposals and generally increase its role in Middle East peacemaking.

Abdullah, accompanied by Queen Rania, is scheduled to visit St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

(AP, Reuters)