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Russia, Poland to hold U.S missile shield talks in Moscow

RIA Novosti

07/04/2008 15:58 MOSCOW, April 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and Polish deputy foreign ministers will meet on Tuesday in Moscow to discuss U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Poland, a Russian diplomatic source has said.

"During the talks the Russian side will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak and Poland by Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski," the source told RIA Novosti on Monday.

The Polish delegation will attempt to overcome Russia's opposition to the installation of U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland.

Russia views a planned U.S. missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as a direct threat to its security and has rejected Washington's assurances that the system has been designed as protection against possible attacks by Iran and other 'rogue' states.

At a meeting on Sunday in south Russia, U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, once again failed to overcome their differences on the U.S. missile defense shield, but agreed to continue negotiations.

On April 1, during a visit to Kiev, Bush rejected speculation that Washington could come to a deal with Moscow on withdrawing American support for Georgia and Ukraine's NATO bids in exchange for Russia's acceptance of the missile shield.

Asked by a reporter about rumors that the U.S. could strike a bargain with Russia, he said, "There's no tradeoff, period."

NATO members decided on Thursday to postpone offering Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the alliance's Membership Action Plan (MAP), but promised to review the decision in December. The ex-Soviet republics had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.

On the eve of his current trip to Moscow, Waszczykowski said Warsaw was ready to hold talks with Russia and Washington on the proposed U.S. anti-missile shield if it is deployed in Poland, but reiterated that the issue of Russian military personnel having permanent access to the site was "out of the question."

The idea of allowing Russia to monitor proposed U.S. missile defense bases in Central Europe was one of the proposals put forward by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates during their talks in Moscow on March 18 with Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Warsaw hosted the first round of Polish-Russian consultations on Washington's missile shield plans in Central Europe at the beginning of January.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who took office in November last year, said shortly after his election that his government had "no rigid doctrine regarding the deployment of a U.S. missile defense base in the country," and that the issue was "open to all arguments for and against" the shield.

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