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Russia's Lavrov gives details on U.S. missile proposal response

RIA Novosti

05/12/2007 16:49 MOSCOW, December 5 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday Washington's reply to Russia's missile defense cooperation proposals was a major setback from previous agreements.

The U.S. plans to deploy a radar and a missile base in Central Europe purportedly to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states. Moscow opposes the plans saying they pose a threat to its security. Despite a series of talks on the issue, the countries have failed to reach a compromise.

"We have received the paper, which is a serious setback from what we were initially told. It no longer stipulates the deployment of Russian officers at the Third [missile shield] Site in the Czech Republic and Poland," Lavrov told a news conference, echoing earlier Russian comments on the issue.

Lavrov said the United States is proposing Russian military officials could visit the sites if Czech and Polish authorities do not object. "This is quite a different story, you see," he said.

The minister also said the U.S. wanted to decide on activating the missile defense sites unilaterally while previous agreements with Moscow said it was to be a joint decision.

Russia's top military commander, Yury Baluyevsky, earlier blasted the U.S. missile defense cooperation offer, saying Russia would never agree to a role as a "cost-free addition" to the U.S. missile shield.

Baluyevsky is currently in the U.S. discussing missile defense cooperation, as well as the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), which Western countries consider a cornerstone of European security. Moscow has imposed a moratorium on the arms control treaty, calling it discriminatory and outdated.

The latter move, seen as a response to the missile shield plans and NATO's expansion, added tensions to already strenuous relations between Russia and the U.S., the former "Cold War" rivals.

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