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Russian Minister Again Criticizes US Missile Defense Plans


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has renewed his country's charge that the United States is launching a new arms race with its plans for deploying a missile defense system in Europe.

The Russian official's comments came as foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G-8) nations met in Potsdam, Germany, to prepare for next week's summit in the northeastern resort of Heiligendamm.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called Russian concerns about the system "ludicrous". She noted that Russia's huge arsenal can easily overwhelm the planned 10-missile U.S. defense system planned for Poland and the Czech Republic. U.S. officials insist the system is designed to deal with threats from rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

On another topic, Lavrov also said he hopes his country will not have to veto a United Nations mediator's plan for supervised independence for Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province.

Earlier, Lavrov insisted on direct negotiations between Serbian officials and leaders of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority on the future of the province

The ministers also discussed climate change, and the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.

The foreign ministers from Pakistan and Afghanistan, who met today with their G-8 counterparts, agreed to deepen cooperation between their governments in efforts to deal with terrorism and resettlement of Afghan refugees.

U.N. and European Union representatives are meeting Wednesday evening in Berlin with the U.S. and Russian ministers for a session of the Mideast Quartet to discuss recent escalation of violence in Lebanon and Gaza.

Earlier, German police closed off Heiligendamm behind a 10-kilometer-long metal fence ahead of next week's summit.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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