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German FM Criticizes US Preparations for Missile Defense System in Europe

19 February 2007

Germany's foreign minister has criticized the United States for failing to include Russia in discussions about a proposed missile defense system in Europe.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier says, because of the strategic nature of the project and its close proximity to Russia, Washington should have included Moscow in the talks from the beginning.

Steinmeier's comments appear in an interview published Monday in Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper.

The United States has asked NATO allies Poland and the Czech Republic to host elements of its proposed anti-missile shield.

After meeting Monday in Warsaw, the Polish and Czech prime ministers, Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Czech Republic's Mirek Topolanek, said they both are likely to accept the U.S. proposal.

Russia strongly opposes Washington's plan, which the Kremlin sees as hostile.

But the United States says its proposed missile defense system poses no threat to Russia.

Washington says the shield is intended to counter a possible future threat of long-range missiles posed by Iran and North Korea.

Russia has threatened to pull out of a 1987 treaty on intermediate-range nuclear missiles if the United States deploys its anti-missile shield systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that NATO's expansion of military forces to Russia's doorstep reduces the level of mutual trust.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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