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US Fails to Persuade Russia to Support Missile Defense Expansion in Europe

The United States has briefed NATO and Russia together Thursday for the first time about its proposals for expansion of missile defense into Europe. Some European allies have expressed reservations in the past about the plans and the Russians have rejected it as an encroachment on their security. Teri Schultz has the story from Brussels.

Some of top American defense officials are in Brussels to try to convince the 25 other NATO countries and Russia that the U.S. missile-defense expansion plan to cover Europe is good for everyone.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the consultations had reinforced in allies the indivisibility of their security.

"A very valuable day - the allies are united on the issue, on the threat and on the way ahead," he said. "A good and open debate with our Russian friends to clear away misconceptions, to air concerns.

But Russian concerns remain even after the presentation by U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman and Missile Defense Program Director Lt. Gen. Henry Oberling.

This came after the visit of a U.S. delegation to Moscow earlier this week to detail ways Russia could be a partner in the process rather than an opponent.

The U.S. has offered to let Russia inspect the radar site it's proposing for the Czech Republic and the interceptor rockets which would be based in Poland, the elements of the proposal which first provoked Russian anger.

"What we are interested in doing is cooperating with them across the full spectrum of matters with regard to missile defense," explained Edelman. "Because we do regard it as a threat that they face as well as we and we think we have a common interest in defending our respective populations against a missile attack."

But that's a point of disagreement in itself. The U.S. regularly cites North Korea and Iran as the biggest reasons a missile shield is necessary, but Russian ambassador Konstantin Totskiy - speaking thru an interpreter - says Russia doesn't share that view on Iran, in particular.

"I propose our experts get together and have a closer look to scrutinize for instance the range of Iranian missiles like Shahab One and Shahab Two because we have different figures in each other's assessments," said Totskiy.

In addition to saying Iran's missile program does not present a serious threat, Totskiy said neither does any other country have the capacity to launch a credible attack on a NATO country. He said Russia prefers to keep that status quo through diplomacy, not by spending billions of dollars on its own missile defense system.

But Totskiy says one should not worry that the world will again be returned to the cold war era when Washington and Moscow disagreed in decades gone by.

"It's not something pleasant to us but we're not going to be back to the Cold War," he said. "In no way are we going to do that.

Officials of all sides will have more time to compare notes in a week, when foreign ministers of the NATO 26 and Russia meet in Oslo.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is also scheduled to visit Moscow soon to continue the consultations.