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Lithuanian minister denies inviting U.S. to deploy missile shield

RIA Novosti

30/05/2007 15:09 VILNIUS, May 30 (RIA Novosti) - Lithuania's defense minister rejected Wednesday international media reports that he had approached NATO with a proposal to deploy elements of a U.S. missile shield in his country.

Earlier Wednesday some media sources said that after a one-day official visit to Moldova, where Lithuanian Defense Minister Juozas Olekas discussed Moldova's possible accession to the Western military alliance, the minister proposed that U.S. missile shield elements be deployed in the ex-Soviet Baltic state.

In an interview with Lithuanian news agency ELTA, he said media had misinterpreted his comments, in which he had stated that the air defense systems planned for certain Central European nations would help Lithuania, providing a guarantee of stability for the region as a whole.

The minister said: "They are not aimed against Russia, and should not be viewed as a first step toward a Cold War" as some Russian military officials and politicians have warned.

The U.S. has reached an informal agreement with Poland to deploy interceptor missiles in the country, and has plans for a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield.

Washington has insisted that placing missile shield components in Central Europe is a security measure against possible nuclear strikes from rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea, whose controversial nuclear programs have caused international concerns.

But Moscow, already unnerved by NATO's expansion to former Warsaw Pact member states, has condemned the plans as a threat to national security and a destabilizing factor for Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday against dangerous tendencies in Europe toward militarization.

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