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Lavrov: Russia Still Opposes NATO Expansion, US Missile Defense Plans


Russia's foreign minister again has expressed opposition to NATO expansion and U.S. plans for a missile defense system in central Europe.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to reporters in Moscow Thursday ahead of next month's visit to Russia by U.S. President George Bush.

Lavrov said his country views proposals for NATO expansion as being out of touch with reality. He said the entire world faces common threats which must be handled in common.

Lavrov also stressed his country's view that the best way to resolve disagreements over the planned U.S. missile defense system is for Washington to abandon it.

The United States has said Russia has nothing to fear from NATO expansion or the missile defense system, which it says is aimed at so-called rogue states such as Iran.

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet April 6 in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Leaders of the 26 NATO countries are expected to invite Albania, Croatia and possibly Macedonia into the alliance at next week's summit in Bucharest. They will also consider initiating the membership process for Ukraine and Georgia.

The United States wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and control-radar in the Czech Republic.

Russia has strongly opposed the plan as a threat to its security. It has said the system could set off a new arms race.

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

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