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Putin says U.S. missile shield will harm Europe

RIA Novosti

24/11/2008 14:33 ST. PETERSBURG, November 24 (RIA Novosti) - Europe would be the worst affected by the deployment of a U.S. missile shield on its territory, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

"It is unclear who could benefit from these actions. But we know that the world as a whole, and in particular Europe, will certainly be the losers," Putin told an international forum on humanitarian law in St. Petersburg.

Russia has fiercely opposed the planned deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an accompanying tracking radar in the Czech Republic, saying they will pose a threat to its security. Washington has said the bases are needed to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states such as Iran.

"No matter what our U.S. partners say, this project is aimed against Russia's strategic potential, and we have no choice but to respond to it appropriately," the premier said.

Russia earlier threatened to deploy Iskander-M short-range missiles in the country's Kaliningrad exclave, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, if the U.S. missile defense system was deployed.

However, Putin reiterated the Kremlin's pledge that "if the new U.S. administration abandons its plans to deploy the missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, the issue of Russia's response measures will be dropped."

"As a result, we'll be able to break the dangerous negative trend on the European continent," he said.

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has yet to state his position on the George W. Bush administration's controversial plans for the missile shield in Europe.

After Obama's election victory, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

Washington said in early November it had provided new proposals to ease Russia's concerns over the plans. New confidence-building steps, in particular, would allow Russian monitors access to missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia has called the new U.S. proposals "insufficient" and insisted that the U.S. abandon the missile shield plans altogether.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday after a meeting with his U.S. counterpart Condoleezza Rice that Moscow and Washington would continue talks on the issue in December.

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