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Russia seeks clarification of new U.S. missile-defense plans

RIA Novosti

17:03 16/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia wants more information on U.S. plans for an alternative missile defense system to be deployed by 2018, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

In an interview with RIA Novosti, the Russia Today channel and the Voice of Russia radio, Lavrov said: "The U.S. has dropped its missile defense plans [for Central Europe], and developed an alternative system, which should not create problems in its first phase, but we would like more details on further stages."

He said Russian and U.S. delegations were working intensively to bring about a new agreement on strategic arms reductions.

Russia's top diplomat also stressed that for the first time in history "a strategic arms limitation agreement is being drafted in the absence of a missile defense treaty."

U.S. President Barack Obama in September scrapped plans to deploy a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland due to a re-assessment of the threat from Iran. Moscow fiercely opposed the plans as a national security threat. The move was also seen as part of efforts to "reset" ties by the two former Cold War foes.

Moscow welcomed the move, and President Dmitry Medvedev said later that Moscow would drop plans to deploy Iskander-M missiles in Russia's Kaliningrad Region, near NATO-member Poland.

However, Russia said on Thursday it was concerned by U.S. missile defense talks with countries outside NATO.

The statement came following reports on talks between the United States and Ukraine on the possible use of the latter's radars or deployment of a new radar in the ex-Soviet state as part of the U.S. missile defense program.

Ukraine has two major radar stations, on the Black Sea peninsula of the Crimea and in the Mukachevo region in the west of the country. Russia rented the stations until February 2008.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow recently said the United States was considering Ukraine as a possible site for a radar station as part of its new missile defense configuration in Europe.

According to U.S. magazine Defense News, Vershbow "added Ukraine to the list of possible early warning sites." He said Ukrainian officials "have mentioned" their interest in participating.

Analysts in Russia said a decision to place a radar in Ukraine would deal a blow to relations between Moscow and Washington.



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