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Moscow still negative on U.S. missile defense in C.Europe -Putin

RIA Novosti

23/05/2007 19:10 (Adds Putin comments throughout, background paras 2, 7-11)

VIENNA, May 23 (RIA Novosti) - After recent contacts with U.S. representatives, Moscow has not changed its negative attitude toward U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Central Europe, President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

The U.S. announced plans in January to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield aimed at countering possible threats from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

"Nothing has changed, or can change following contacts with American partners," Putin told journalists.

Putin recently met in Moscow with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss, among other things, the upcoming deployment of the missile defense system in Europe.

He said the U.S. action will only provoke a new spiral in the arms race.

"We believe that this is absolutely counterproductive and harmful," he said.

Moscow has repeatedly condemned the plan, claiming that it could be a "destabilizing factor" and could threaten Russia's national security, and warned that "appropriate measures" would be taken in response.

Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday the U.S.'s unilateral decision to deploy elements of a national defense system in Central and Eastern European countries jeopardizes Russia, as well as the whole of Europe.

Sergei Lavrov said Moscow has never objected to joint defense against any threat as long as these efforts are collective and the threats real.

"Therefore any unilateral steps, especially those taken in haste, are effectively setting the stage for a new division of Europe," he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said the Pentagon's plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe were not directed against Russia.

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