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No U.S. missiles on Armenian soil - deputy FM

RIA Novosti

09/03/2007 14:01 YEREVAN, March 9 (RIA Novosti) - Armenia's deputy foreign minister said Friday the Caucasus state was not considering the possibility of deploying elements of a U.S. missile defense system on its soil.

A senior Pentagon official said March 1 that the United States would like to deploy a radar base in the post-Soviet Caucasus, without specifying in which country. The statement further strained relations with Moscow already unnerved by earlier reports of U.S. plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in Central Europe.

"I would like to make an official statement that we have not received any inquiries or proposals on that score from the U.S. or NATO commanders," Arman Kirakosyan said.

He said Armenia's Foreign Ministry was unaware whether such proposals had been made to Georgia and Azerbaijan, the ex-Soviet states in the region that Russia has singled out as the most probable sites for a U.S. radar.

Both Georgia and Azerbaijan have said they know nothing of the plans.

Kirakosyan said Washington was unlikely to approach Yerevan with such a proposal in the future.

Armenia is a member of a post-Soviet security group, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is dominated by Russia and believed to have been created as a way of preventing NATO's further eastward expansion.

The Caucasus state has also sought closer ties with NATO under an individual partnership program, which envisions joint exercises and training for the Armenian military.

But in Armenia's territorial conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, the alliance has tended to back the latter, saying that the region is under Armenian "military occupation." Conversely, Moscow is more supportive of Armenia on the issue.

Russia, which is anxious about NATO bases emerging in former Communist-bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics, has blasted plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Poland, the Czech Republic and the Caucasus as a national security threat and a destabilizing factor in the world.

Washington said the defenses would be designed to counter possible strikes from Iran, which is involved in long-running disputes with the international community over its nuclear programs.

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