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Russia, U.S. agree to continue dialogue on missile defense

RIA Novosti

23/04/2007 17:25 MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow and Washington will continue a dialogue on America's missile defense plans in Europe, a Russian diplomat said following a meeting between the Russian president and the U.S. defense secretary on Monday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is currently on a visit to Moscow to discuss the placement of elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe.

The U.S. official met with President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in an apparent attempt to convince the Russian leadership that the U.S. missile shield does not pose any threat to Russia.

"The American side has confirmed its willingness to maintain the dialogue on these issues considering that legitimate concerns must be taken into accounts," Sergei Kislyak, Russian deputy foreign minister, said. "The dialogue will continue at the expert level."

In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns.

Moscow has been strongly opposed to the U.S. plans, saying they would threaten Russia's security and destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

Gates told journalists after the meetings in Moscow that the shield was intended to prevent potential aggressors in the Middle East and Asia from using their ballistic missiles to blackmail Europe or the U.S. and cause chaos.

He said rapid technological progress and the development of weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems suggested that current threats could grow even more sinister in 10 to 15 years.

Moscow, which has been anxious about NATO bases that have appeared in former Communist-bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics, has blasted the plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Central Europe as a national security threat and a destabilizing factor for Europe.

Gates said he was aware of Russia's concerns and confirmed U.S. readiness to cooperate with Moscow on the whole range of issues related to the missile defense system.

President Vladimir Putin said at the meeting with the U.S. defense secretary in the Kremlin that he will meet with his U.S. counterpart George Bush at a G8 summit in Germany in July.

"Mrs. [Condoleezza] Rice will soon arrive in Moscow, and then I will meet with the [U.S.] president [George Bush] during the G8 summit in Germany," Putin said.

"Other meetings [on missile defense issue] are also planned, including in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council," the Russian leader said.

Putin and Bush discussed the preparation of a future discussion agenda and the schedule of upcoming meetings during a telephone conversation Monday afternoon.

Both presidents expressed satisfaction with the current level of political dialogue, and Vladimir Putin stated that "a busy political season is opening in Russian-U.S. relations."


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