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US Tells Russia Iran Still Is a Threat

A U.S. arms control official says Washington's planned missile defense system for Europe remains necessary despite reports that Iran abandoned its nuclear arms program several years ago. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest where U.S. and Russian officials have been holding talks on the issue.

Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood admits there was little progress when he met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak Thursday to discuss U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland.

However, Rood says the talks were useful and he exchanged key intelligence with Russian officials in an effort to ease fears about the system.

"I think it has been a useful dialogue and to my knowledge the most detailed exchange of intelligence information we have ever had with our Russian colleagues. This is intelligence information the United States has previously only shared with NATO allies," he said.

Moscow has expressed strong opposition to the planned missile defense system, which will cost at least roughly $300 million. Rood says he has tried to convince the Russian delegation that the system is aimed at what Washington views as "rogue states" such as North Korea and Iran.

Rood also disagrees with those who say the program is no longer necessary in the wake of a new U.S. intelligence report that says Iran likely abandoned its nuclear arms program four years ago.

"It is an estimate on the status of Iran 's nuclear [weapons] program. We are concerned about Iran's ballistic missile program as well. We recently saw the Iranian defense minister making public statements with regard to Iran developing two new medium range ballistic missiles. This statement simply highlights our concerns about the direction of the Iranian ballistic missile program. And we would be concerned about the progression of that kind of ballistic missile capability regardless of the type of payload carried, whether that be conventional, nuclear, chemical, biological," he said.

Rood, who holds talks on the system in Prague Friday, says missile defense isn't the only area of disagreement with Russia. In his meeting with Russian officials, Rood expressed U.S. concerns about Moscow's decision to withdraw from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, or CFE.

He says the United States, NATO and other allies will closely monitor Russia's next military moves.

This was the fourth meeting of senior-level American and Russian officials under an initiative launched by President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in July in the United States.