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Bulgaria's U.S. missile defense plans 'not anti-Russian'

RIA Novosti


ATHENS, February 17 (RIA Novosti) - Bulgaria's possible participation in a U.S. missile defense system is not targeted against Russia, Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said on Wednesday.

A high-ranking U.S. diplomat said on Friday the United States was holding informal talks with Bulgaria on hosting elements of a U.S. missile shield on its soil.

However, in an interview with the bTV Bulgarian TV channel, Mladenov said Bulgaria was not currently conducting any specific bilateral missile defense talks.

"There is an ongoing discussion within the framework of NATO with regard to the general makeup of a missile defense system for all NATO countries. At this stage, Bulgaria is holding negotiations within the NATO framework about the conceptual outline of the system," he said.

"This shield is not directed against a threat coming from Russia. The threats that exist for us also exist for our Russian friends," Mladenov said.

U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick indicated that discussions were in the very early stages and that so far the United States was only prepared to hold consultations with the Bulgarian government.

Warlick also said America would not want to make Bulgaria choose between Washington and Moscow, and that both the United States and Bulgaria would like to see a prosperous Russia as a friendly partner.

Two weeks ago, Romania announced that it would host interceptor missiles as part of a U.S. missile defense system.

A U.S. State Department official said previously the facilities in Romania are to become operational by 2015 and are designed as protection against "current and emerging ballistic missile threats from Iran."

The planned deployment in Romania comes after U.S. President Barack Obama scrapped plans for a radar and interceptor missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland, which Russia fiercely opposed as a national security threat. Moscow had threatened retaliatory measures.

On Monday, Moldova's unrecognized republic of Transdnestr offered to deploy Russian missile defense elements. Transdnestr leader Igor Smirnov was quoted by media that his republic would deploy elements of a Russian missile defense system to counter U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Romania if Moscow asked.

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