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U.S. may soon put 'missile umbrella' over south Europe - media

RIA Novosti

01:08 02/08/2010

MOSCOW, August 2 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. Defense Department is close to reaching an agreement with a country in southern Europe on the deployment of a missile early-warning radar to counter potential missile strikes from Iran, The Washington Post reported.

"The U.S. military is on the verge of activating a partial missile shield over southern Europe, part of an intensifying global effort to build defenses against Iranian missiles amid a deepening impasse over the country's nuclear ambitions," the newspaper said in an article published on Sunday.

Citing unidentified Pentagon sources, the paper said a powerful X-band missile-tracking radar would be probably deployed either in Turkey or Bulgaria as early as next year, and it would enable the first phase of the missile shield.

The new radar will feed early-warning data to U.S. warships equipped with Aegis missile system, which are deployed in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

Although the Barack Obama administration scrapped last September earlier plans to deploy missile defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland in response to strong opposition from Russia, Washington has not given up on its European missile shield initiative.

In May, the United States opened a Patriot missile base in northern Poland, just 80 km (50 miles) from the border of Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, in accordance with an agreement negotiated under former President George Bush in 2008 - a move which again drew much criticism from Moscow.

Romania agreed in February to host U.S. interceptor missiles from 2015.

Bulgaria said in April it would request participation in the U.S. missile shield in Europe as soon as all parameters of the system become clear.

Western powers led by the United States, along with Israel, accuse Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology for their delivery. Iran says it needs its nuclear program for the peaceful generation of electricity and missile program for space exploration.

Tehran successfully launched last year an upgraded Shahab-3 ballistic missile as part of a navy exercise, dubbed Great Prophet 3, in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

With a reported range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) and armed with a 1-ton conventional warhead, the Shahab-3 puts Israel, Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan and Pakistan within striking distance.

Some Western and Russian sources claim that Iran may be currently running a program, dubbed Project Koussar, to develop a totally different missile with a range of 4,000-5,000 km (2,500-3,300 miles).

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