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U.S. missile shield plans affect Asia - Russian FM

RIA Novosti

09/07/2007 11:17

BISHKEK, July 9 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Central Europe may affect the situation in Asia, the Russian foreign minister said Monday.

"We have not discussed specifically the situation around the U.S. missile shield in Europe, but we realize that this region [Central Asia] will certainly feel the consequences of these unilateral actions," Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

The SCO was set up a decade ago to deal with Islamic extremism and other security threats in Central Asia, but has since expanded its scope to include cooperation in disaster relief and trade.

It currently comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China, with Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia having an observer status.

U.S. plans to place elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic have become one of the main issues of contention in relations between Russia and the United States, bringing them recently to their lowest point since the Cold War.

In an initial response to the U.S. move, Moscow threatened to point Russian warheads at Europe and pull out of a conventional arms reduction treaty, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), but seemingly softened its stance when Putin proposed at a Group of Eight leading industrialized nations summit in Germany to jointly use the Gabala radar in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

During his informal talks with George W. Bush last week, the Russian president proposed that the United States jointly use a radar being built in southern Russia, in addition to the missile early warning facility in Gabala.

The White House welcomed the Russian initiatives but so far has not shown any signs that it would drop its European missile shield plans, with experts seriously doubting the possibility altogether.

Meanwhile, a Russian first deputy prime minister said Sunday Russia proposed to create a global missile defense system by 2020.

"We are proposing to create a single missile defense system for all participants with equal access to the system's control," Sergei Ivanov said in a televised interview with the Vesti Nedeli program on the Rossiya television channel.

Ivanov said the proposal applied both to the United States and European countries, including neutral states like Austria, Finland and Sweden.

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