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US Official Says NATO to Endorse Missile Shield


An American official says the NATO summit has agreed to back plans to put a missile defense system in Europe. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports NATO leaders are also expected to urge Russia to drop its objections.

A senior U.S. official says NATO has agreed to endorse the missile shield plan in its summit communiqué.

He says the statement will recognize the substantial contribution the system will make to the protection of Europe from long-range missile threats, particularly from the Middle East.

It is a major victory for the Bush administration, which is leading the effort to put a radar system in the Czech Republic and missile interceptors in Poland.

Russia is strongly opposed to the idea, saying it could launch a new arms race on the continent.

President Bush has urged the Russians to reconsider. He stresses the Cold War is over and Russia is not the target.

At a news conference, just hours before the leaders of the western military alliance began their work in Bucharest, Mr. Bush offered more assurances to Moscow. He says missile defense will top the agenda when he confers Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

"I've got some convincing to do. But he needs to understand the missile defense system is aimed primarily at rogue regimes coming out of the Middle East that could hold us all hostage," he said.

Mr. Bush predicted the talks will be frank and candid. Russian President-elect Dimitry Medvedev - who takes office next month - will join the discussions in Sochi.

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