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Obama Offers Russia Secret Missile Defense Deal

By VOA News
03 March 2009

U.S. news organizations are reporting that senior U.S. administration officials say U.S. President Barack Obama has offered Russia a deal involving a controversial plan by the U.S. to deploy a missile defense system.

The reports say Mr. Obama wrote his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, and suggested that the U.S. would reconsider plans to deploy the defense system in Eastern Europe, if Moscow would help to stop Iran from developing long-range weapons.

In Spain Tuesday, Mr. Medvedev said no such exchange was offered and that it was "not productive" to link talks over the missile defense system with Iran's nuclear program. He also said Moscow is ready to discuss missile defense plans that meet the interests of Russia, Europe and the United States.

The letter was first reported in The New York Times newspaper.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will discuss missile defense with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when they meet Friday in Geneva. Presidents Obama meets Mr. Medvedev in London April 2.

The missile defense plan angered Moscow when it was proposed by the Bush administration. Former U.S. President George W. Bush said it was needed to deter Iran in case Tehran developed a nuclear warhead to fit on long-range missiles.

The Bush administration's plans included building a high-tech radar facility in the Czech Republic, and deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland -- two nations that Russia once considered within its "sphere of influence." Mr. Bush rebuffed a Russian counter-proposal to install part of the system on its territory and jointly operate it.

Russia has developed economic and military ties with Tehran, and has resisted the hardline U.S. stance against Iran.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has used the phrase "press the reset button" (just start over) to describe the Obama administration's goal of reviving and renewing U.S. relations with Russia.

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