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Lavrov says U.S. failed to justify Europe missile shield

RIA Novosti | August 1, 2007

MANILA, August 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said the United States failed to produce convincing evidence of a need to deploy its missile defense system in Central Europe at the first round of negotiations in Washington.

"We did not hear any convincing facts that could have made us change our views," Sergei Lavrov told journalists during his visit to Manila, the Philippine capital.

The minister said the sides had agreed to prepare thoroughly for the second round of talks due in Moscow in early September.

The Russian delegation at the talks on missile defense held in Washington on July 30-31 was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak. At the negotiations, military and political officials from the two countries discussed prospects for cooperation on the issue, and the U.S. invited Russian specialists to view U.S. missile interceptors at a base in Alaska.

Russian representatives reiterated Moscow's position that the U.S. has no reason to build a missile defense system in Europe until there is conclusive evidence showing that Iran has the capability to launch long-range nuclear-armed missiles.

The U.S. has said it wants to place a radar and a host of interceptor missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic to fend off what Washington sees as an impending missile threat from Iran and North Korea. But Russia regards these plans as a threat to its national security.

President Vladimir Putin, during his two-day meeting with President George W. Bush at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine, last month, proposed incorporating a new radar, currently being built in southern Russia, into a missile defense system managed by the NATO-Russia Joint Permanent Council, of which Moscow and Washington are members.

Russia also said it is ready to upgrade its early warning radar in Gabala, Azerbaijan, which was also proposed as an alternative to U.S. missile plans, but Washington has repeatedly called it obsolete.

Russia's future radar base is located near the town of Armavir, in the Krasnodar Territory - about 700 km (450 miles) to the northwest of the Iranian border, and just 100 km to the north of Sochi, the Russian alpine resort on the Black Sea, whose bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics will be decided tomorrow in Guatemala.

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