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US Frustrated by Russian Stance on Missile Defense


The State Department expressed frustration over Russia's apparent rejection of new U.S. proposals on European missile defense. Moscow contends the planned U.S. anti-missile system in Central Europe threatens its strategic deterrence. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Bush administration officials say Russia's seeming rebuff of a new U.S. proposal on missile-defense transparency raises questions about whether Russia is serious about discussing the issue at all.

The State Department said late last week the United States had sent Moscow refined proposals, including on-site inspections, to try to convince Russia that the proposed U.S. system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic is directed solely against Iranian and other rogue-state missile threats.

Seeming to preempt discussion of the new U.S. ideas, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Egypt Saturday that the American proposals "fall short" and indicated Moscow will await the incoming Barack Obama administration for further discussions.

In a talk with reporters, State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood still intends to visit Moscow in the coming weeks to discuss the U.S. transparency offer.

Wood reiterated that Russia "has nothing to fear" from the U.S. system and he questioned if Moscow really wants to discuss the matter seriously:

"You may have a point," said Wood. "I am not sure that they are really willing to sit and negotiate, or to cooperate with us on missile defense. It seems like every time we put forth a proposal, they reject it. And so we encourage the Russians strongly to engage with us on missile defense. And again, as we have said over and over again, this is not targeted at Russia and its strategic forces."

President-elect Obama has not endorsed the Bush administration plan, which calls for putting 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland and a related radar system in the Czech Republic.

Mr. Obama discussed the issue by telephone late last Friday with Polish President Lech Kaczynski. An Obama spokesman later said he did not give the Polish leader a commitment he would go ahead with plans to install the system.

The Obama aide said the incoming President only supports a missile-defense shield when the technology is proven workable.

Undersecretary Rood said last week the Bush administration has also sent Moscow a new proposal for an agreement to limit nuclear warheads on both sides that would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires at the end of 2009.

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