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State Dept. confirms timeframe for missile defense talks with Russia

RIA Novosti

04/05/2007 21:53 WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4 (RIA Novosti) - U.S.-Russia missile defense talks will go ahead as planned in early fall, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Daniel Fried said Friday.

The U.S. Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense will meet their Russian counterparts in September to discuss prospective missile shields in Europe, as well as strategic offensive weapons and conventional forces, Fried said, adding that the talks may also involve the two countries' national security advisers.

Washington's plans to deploy missile interceptors and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic have drawn criticism from Russia, which argues the facilities would undermine its national security.

However, President George W. Bush said he would launch negotiations on the prospective shield with Polish and Czech officials as he travels to Central Europe later this month, despite Russian objections.

According to the Bush administration, the system is aimed at protecting the U.S. and Europe from potential missile attacks by Iran and other "rogue" states, and poses no strategic threat to Russia.

But officials in Moscow remain unconvinced, and have protested by freezing Russian commitments under a major post-Cold War conventional arms control accord - a move that, according to its Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, caused grave concern in NATO.

In his state-of-the-nation address last month, President Vladimir Putin announced the country would suspend the implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, signed by the transatlantic bloc and the Warsaw Pact nations in 1990.

Only Russia and three other former Soviet nations have so far ratified an updated 1999 version of the CFE, revised to reflect changes in Europe's political landscape, with many members of the now-defunct Warsaw Treaty having become part of NATO.

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