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U.S. sensitive to Russian concerns on missile defense - diplomat

RIA Novosti

02/02/2007 16:43 MOSCOW, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - The United States will take into account Russia's concerns regarding its plans to deploy elements of an anti-missile defense system in Europe, a high-ranking U.S. diplomat said Friday on condition of anonymity.

The State Department diplomat, currently on a visit to Moscow, said the United States will consider the concerns of countries near Poland and the Czech Republic, where America intends to deploy its missile defense systems, including Russia's position.

Washington officially proposed January 20 placing a radar network in the Czech Republic, and two days later announced plans to begin formal talks with Poland on the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems on its territory.

The diplomat said that a final decision on the deployment of the system in Eastern Europe has not been made yet, and that the United States has only just begun talks with Poland and the Czech Republic.

On Friday, Jiri Paroubek, the head of the Czech Social Democratic faction that holds 74 seats out of 200 in the Czech parliament's lower house, said his social democrats will vote against the deployment of U.S. missile defense radars in the country.

He added that the faction will demand from the parliament that a nationwide referendum be held on the issue.

The U.S. has argued that defenses in Europe could intercept possible intercontinental ballistic missiles from 'rogue' regimes, such as Iran and North Korea.

But on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at an annual news conference with Russian and foreign journalists, televised live from the Kremlin, that Washington's arguments were not convincing and that Russia considered Washington's plans to be a threat to its national security.

He said that should the U.S. proceed with its intentions, Russia would respond decisively.

"We must think, and are thinking, of ways to ensure our national security," Putin said. "All our responses will be asymmetric but highly effective."

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