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U.S. Secretary of State arrives in Moscow for talks

RIA Novosti

14/05/2007 17:11

MOSCOW, May 14 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow Monday to discuss a variety of bilateral and international issues with the Russian leadership, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said.

According to earlier reports, the agenda of her two-day visit will focus on a proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe, independence for Kosovo, Iran's nuclear program, the situation in Iraq, and an alleged clampdown on democracy in Russia.

The relations between the Kremlin and the White House have been recently marred by tensions on specific issues that raised Russia's concern over its national security, particularly over the U.S. plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and a missile early-warning radar in the Czech Republic.

On the eve of Rice's visit to Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin reiterated that any discussion of European missile defense plans should involve all interested parties.

"We proceed from the assumption that questions of missile defense on the European continent should be considered in a collective format and meet the security interests of all European states," Kamynin said.

He called upon the United States to take a similar approach and said Russia is also willing to discuss the issue in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council and during bilateral talks with Washington.

Echoing his remarks, Nikolai Bordyuzha, the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), said the proposed placement of a U.S. missile shield in Europe and attempts to expand it to the Caucasus and Central Asia is a threat to all CSTO member countries.

"It is all a part of large-scale work aimed at creating a well-developed military infrastructure around Russia, Belarus and other CSTO countries," the official said.

He also said the post-Soviet security group in Central Asia is planning to create a large military contingent comprising units and formations of several Central Asian states, a step that could be viewed as a move to counter-balance NATO's further eastward expansion and the U.S. missile-defense plans.

Russia has already said that a united regional air defense system could encompass almost all the territory of the former Soviet Union within the CSTO framework in the future.

During her Moscow visit, the U.S. Secretary of State is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in an attempt to allay Russia's worries and prevent a further deterioration in relations between the two countries.

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