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Russia says missile defense deal with U.S. possible

RIA Novosti

19/03/2009 17:52 MOSCOW, March 19 (RIA Novosti) - There is scope for Russia and the United States to reach an agreement on missile defense, the Russian Foreign Ministry's official spokesman said on Thursday.

"In theory, we have every opportunity to agree on the missile defense issue," Andrei Nesterenko said.

He also said Russia welcomed the Czech Republic's decision to put off a vote in parliament on the ratification of a deal to place a radar on its soil as part of a U.S. missile shield.

"We believe this decision reflects prevailing public opinion in the country," Nesterenko said.

The United States has cited Iran's controversial nuclear program as one of the reasons behind its plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. The missile shield has been strongly opposed by Russia, which views it as a threat to its national security. The dispute has strained relations between the former Cold War rivals, already tense over a host of other differences.

The United States and other Western nations suspect Tehran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity.

Top Russian officials have repeatedly expressed their hope that President Barack Obama will not follow through with the missile defense plans of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

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