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British MPs warn against dividing Europe over U.S. missile shield

RIA Novosti

26/11/2007 09:30 LONDON, November 26 (RIA Novosti) - A British parliamentary committee conceded that Russia's opposition to U.S. missile shield plans in Europe will be difficult to overcome, and called for greater international cooperation on the issue.

U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic have become the most controversial issue in relations between Russia and the United States, bringing them to their lowest point since the Cold War.

In a report released on the weekend, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said: "We conclude that Russian opposition to U.S. ballistic missile defence (BMD) plans in Central Europe largely reflects Moscow's sensitivity about the presence of NATO infrastructure in its former satellite states. As such, Russian opposition will be hard to overcome."

The United States is planning to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as part of its European missile shield, to avert possible strikes from "rogue states," such as Iran and North Korea. Russia has objected, citing concerns over its national security.

The British lawmakers said: "We welcome signs that the U.S., Russia and the NATO allies may be engaging in a more substantive dialogue and search for cooperation on BMD. As long as it remains committed to the U.S. BMD plans, we recommend that the Government seek ways to build cooperation around them, both within NATO and with Russia, so that they do not become a source of further divisions in Europe."

The committee criticized the British government's decision to allow the Pentagon the use of a Royal Air Force monitoring station in Yorkshire as part of its ballistic missile defense plans, without a parliamentary vote.

"We regret the manner and timing of the Government's announcement that RAF Menwith Hill is to participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, and the resulting lack of Parliamentary debate on the issue... We recommend that there should be a full Parliamentary debate on these proposals."

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