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Russian General: Country Can Quickly Resume Intermediate-Range Missile Production

The top commander of Russia's strategic missile forces says his country is capable of quickly resuming production of short and intermediate-range missiles.

General Nikolai Solovtsov stressed Friday that his country is fully observing the 20-year-old U.S.-Soviet agreement banning missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers in Europe. But he said Russia will act swiftly if there is a political decision to build such weapons.

Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he finds it difficult to stay within the treaty because other countries are building arsenals of similar range.

Meanwhile, at a European Union-Russia summit in Portugal, Mr. Putin compared U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile defense system in central Europe to the 1962 Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba that prompted the Cuban missile crisis.

In Washington, a White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, said the historical comparison does not exactly work.

She noted that both sides can work together on the issue and stressed that the purpose of the U.S. plan is to defend both America's European allies and Russia. U.S. officials say the system is needed to defend against possible missile attacks from such states as North Korea and Iran.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates also expressed his hope Friday, in a speech in Texas, that progress on the issue can be made with Russia, even though he called the remarks "fairly troubling."

Russia has warned that deployment of 10 U.S. missile interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic would prompt a new arms race.

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