Tue, Jul 31, 2007 - Page 6 News List

US, Russia to discuss anti-missile base

AFP , WASHINGTON

Experts from the US and Russia were to meet yesterday to evaluate Moscow's proposal for a joint anti-missile base to counter a planned US missile shield based in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The talks would also cover the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, a key European arms control accord from which Russia withdrew recently, US officials said.

"We hope that the meeting would be productive and Russia and the US can agree to some serious cooperation on missile defense against common threats," a US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Missile defense certainly occupies a large part of the agenda but the CFE treaty would also be discussed," the official said.

The talks among the technical experts are the first since US President George W. Bush agreed to study the missile shield plan first raised by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Germany last month.

Bush had called for a joint panel of experts to look into the issue.

threat

The US insists the shield that it wants based in Poland and the Czech Republic is aimed at knocking out the threat from nations such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia says the plan threatens its security and has suggested that the US and NATO use the Gabala radar station in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan instead of having a shield in central Europe.

Azerbaijan borders Iran, one of the countries that Washington says it needs to protect itself against.

Bush refered to Putin's proposal as a "very constructive and bold strategic move," but insisted that "the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of this system."

impossible

Ahead of the Washington talks, Russia's foreign ministry said on Friday that Russian-US cooperation on missile shield would be impossible if the US deployed its own missile shield in Central Europe.

Putin's proposal "will be possible only if the US declines to deploy ... a missile shield on European territory, as well as strike components in space," the ministry said in a statement in Moscow.

Although Russia said earlier this month it would stop complying with the 1990 CFE treaty, which limits the deployment of conventional arms in Europe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his US counterpart last week that talks would continue on the issue.

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