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Russia hopes U.S. will review missile defense plans - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

16/01/2009 15:15 MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is hoping that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will review Russia's proposal for a collective Russian-American-European missile defense network, the Russian foreign minister said on Friday.

"We have noticed that President-elect Obama is willing to take a break on the issue of missile defense...and to evaluate its effectiveness and cost efficiency," Sergei Lavrov told a news conference in Moscow.

Moscow has strongly opposed the possible deployment by the U.S. of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as a threat to its security and nuclear deterrence. Washington says the defenses are needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states."

"We hope that while studying the [missile defense] project, he [Obama] will pay attention to the breakthrough proposals made by Russia in 2007 on the collective Russian-American-European network for monitoring the global risks of missile proliferation and joint measures to tackle these risks," the minister said.

Last November, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow would deploy Iskander missile systems in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, in response to any deployment by Washington of elements of a missile defense shield in Europe.

Lavrov also said that Moscow is closely following statements made by possible future members of the Obama administration prior to his inauguration on January 20, reiterating that Russia is open for a dialogue on equal terms.

Russia-U.S. relations have been frayed by Washington's plans to deploy elements of a missile shield in Central Europe, Russia's five-day war with Georgia over South Ossetia last August, and NATO's eastward expansion.

"We are listening to and studying all statements made by people from Obama's circle, as well as the U.S. president-elect himself, and we are open for a dialogue on equal terms," the Russian minister said.

At a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Obama's choice for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said she planned to work very closely with Russia on key economic, security, nonproliferation, and arms control issues.

Lavrov also said he hoped that once Obama assumes office the Iran Six group of world powers will resume contact with Tehran on the resolution of its controversial nuclear program.

"Our position is that Iran, which has answered many questions from the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], should continue its active cooperation with this agency to resolve remaining problems that are still in the Iranian [nuclear] dossier," Lavrov said.

Russia has repeatedly called on the Iran Six group, which also involves the United States, China, France, Britain and Germany, to support the work of the UN nuclear watchdog, while the United States wants to strengthen sanctions against Iran.

Tehran is under three sets of relatively mild UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend its nuclear program, which many Western powers led by the United States say is a covert nuclear weapons program, a claim that Iran has dismissed.

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