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Russia, U.S. unlikely to agree on missile shield in Dec. - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

28/11/2008 10:26 CARACAS, November 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian foreign minister said on Friday that Moscow and Washington were unlikely to reach a final agreement on a planned U.S. missile shield for central Europe during talks in December.

Commenting on the possible replacement of outgoing U.S. Under Secretary of State John Rood as the U.S. top negotiator at missile shield talks with Moscow, Sergei Lavrov said: "If for some reason we see a reshuffling of personnel, I do not think this will have any impact on our position," Sergei Lavrov said.

"The essence of the problem, though, is that we are unlikely to finally dot all the i's in December," he said.

He admitted however that progress on the issue could be made through "holding frank conversations and sticking to earlier reached agreements."

Moscow has fiercely opposed the planned U.S. deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, saying they will pose a threat to its national security. Washington has said the bases are necessary in order to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states like Iran.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev 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 in central Europe.

However, Medvedev subsequently said in an interview with France's Figaro newspaper that Russia could "reconsider this response if the new U.S. administration is ready to once again review and analyze all the consequences of its decisions to deploy the missiles and radar facilities."

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

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

A new round of talks in Moscow to discuss missile defense and other issues, including a new U.S. proposal to further limit strategic nuclear weapons on both sides is expected in December.

After Barack Obama's U.S. presidential 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.

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