NATO member states approve anti-missile system covering U.S., Europe
BRUSSELS, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - The leaders of 28 NATO member states have agreed on the creation of a missile defense system covering the U.S. and Europe and will seek to involve Russia in the project, U.S. President Barack Obama said.
"I’m pleased to announce that - for the first time - we’ve agreed to develop missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States," Obama told participants in the NATO summit in Lisbon on Friday.
The missile defense system "offers a role for all of our allies to respond to the threats of our times," Obama said.
"We look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well recognizing that we share many of the same threats," he said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will join the summit later on Saturday, for the first time since the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia which soured Moscow's ties with the alliance. Missile defense is expected to be a central issue during the talks.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai said ahead of the summit that the alliance was expecting to draw up a road map for missile defense cooperation with Russia during the Lisbon summit.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month that Russia is ready to cooperate with NATO in the missile defense sphere and create a missile pool on condition that the security of all nations is taken into consideration.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier in the month the alliance hoped to work with Russia on missile defense, but Russian and NATO missile defense systems are unlikely to be integrated into a single system. These two systems should rather interact to create a common "security roof" through information exchange, he said.
Rasmussen previously proposed the creation of a missile shield from Vancouver to Vladivostok that would integrate the U.S. and NATO missile-defense systems with a role for Russia.
Russia has retained staunch opposition to the deployment of missile-defense systems near its borders, claiming they would be a security threat. NATO and the United States insist that the shield would defend NATO territories against missiles from North Korea and Iran and would not be directed at Russia.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has campaigned for a pan-European security pact instead of the shield, although Western nations and NATO have dismissed the plan as irrelevant and unnecessary.
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