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Putin Tells Rice, Gates Not to Push Missile Defense

12 October 2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States to back off plans for a missile defense system in eastern Europe and warned that his country might withdraw from a key missile treaty.

Mr. Putin told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates his country might pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which bars such missiles, unless it is expanded to cover other countries with nuclear weapons.

He did not specify the countries in question but called the treaty outdated because other countries are developing the kinds of weapons that it covers.

Later in closed-door talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a freeze on the U.S. missile defense plan and warned that his country will take measures to counter it.

The two sides agreed to further discussions, but Secretary Rice also said the United States will continue talks with Poland and the Czech Republic on the project.

The U.S. has said it needs the missile defense system to counter threats from states such as Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Putin has proposed that Russia and the U.S. cooperate on a system at an existing former Soviet missile radar site in Azerbaijan. But Mr. Gates said that radar will not be fully able to cope with the task.

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty bans both Russian and U.S. missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers in Europe.

The U.S.-Russian discussions also are expected to include other issues such as Iran, Kosovo and Russia's threat to drop out of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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