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US missile shield threatens resolution of Iran stand-off: Russia

AFP | June 9, 2007

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that United States missile defence plans could worsen the Iranian nuclear stand-off and urged Washington to freeze work on the issue with the Czech Republic and Poland.

Lavrov said that the United States should take time to study a proposal by President Vladimir Putin made at the Group of Eight (G8) summit this week to use an alternative radar station in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan.

"It's necessary to freeze the deployment of missile defence systems in Europe for a period of study and analysis," he was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying.

He went on to say that the US missile defence plans could "seriously complicate" efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve the stand-off over Iran's nuclear programme.

"Work is under way within the framework of the United Nations, the IAEA. We want this to fully clarify all aspects. The deployment of the missile shield in Europe may complicate these efforts, put in question Iran's willingness to openly cooperate," Lavrov said.

Information from the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan, which Putin said could be used jointly by Russia and the United States, is sufficient for the detection of current threats, Lavrov said.

"At the moment there is enough information on hypothetical threats provided by the radar station in Azerbaijan. It is a reliable warning station.

"Joint use of information from the station would allow the United States to refrain from deploying elements of the missile shield in Europe and from deployment of its space components," he said.

Russia has strongly objected to the US plans to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and linked interceptor missiles in Poland -- European countries that were under Moscow's control in Soviet times.

Putin insisted on Thursday that the radar in Azerbaijan, which is currently under Russian control, could be shared with Washington and would be able to detect any missile fired by Iran.

Experts and the secretary general of NATO, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, have voiced doubts about the Azerbaijani radar's ability to meet US requirement.


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