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Latvia ready to host U.S. missile shield - PM

RIA Novosti

07/06/2007 16:01 RIGA, June 7 (RIA Novosti) - Latvia is ready to consider the possibility of placing elements of a U.S. missile shield on its territory if necessary, the country's prime minister said Thursday.

"We would certainly agree to a [U.S.] proposal if we receive it, because European security is very important," Aigars Kalvitis said in an interview with Latvia's TV5 channel. "I am certain of this because we are a member of NATO and the EU, and play a part in Europe's collective security."

NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Wednesday the entire European continent and all NATO allies, wherever they are located, should be covered by the U.S. missile defense elements in Europe.

The U.S. national missile defense system currently deploys missile interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska, and at Vandenberg, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

The United States proposed earlier this year expanding its missile shield to sites in the Czech Republic and Poland, allegedly to counter a potential threat from Iran and North Korea.

The Kremlin has responded angrily to U.S. plans, citing threats to national security, and said U.S. missile bases in Europe could become targets of its pinpoint strikes.

Russia last week tested a new ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and a new cruise missile, saying the tests were part of Moscow's response to U.S. anti-missile plans.

The Latvian premier called Russia's position on the issue aggressive and confrontational.

"It is a quite an aggressive stance on the part of Russia," the Latvian premier said. "To announce that they [the Russians] could aim missiles at Europe is a policy that leads to confrontation."

The presidents of Russia and the United States are likely to discuss the proposed deployment of a U.S. missile shield in Central Europe on the sidelines of the ongoing summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in Germany.

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