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US Missile Defense Site in Romania Becomes Operational

FILE - From left US Vice Admiral James D Syring, Romanian President Traian Basescu , US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James N Miller, and Romanian Defense Minister Mircea Dusa shovel sand during the official ground breaking ceremony of an U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defense base in Deveselu, Romania, Oct. 28, 2013.

A new U.S. missile defense site south of Bucharest that will defend against potential attacks from Iran has been completed, the United States and Romania announced on Friday.

The Aegis Ashore site includes a powerful radar, missile interceptors and communications equipment.

The system has been handed over to military commanders, who are expected to declare it operational, or ready for initial combat use, in early 2016 as they integrate the site with NATO's broader ballistic missile defense system.

It coincides with deliberations by U.S. officials about how to respond to an Iranian ballistic missile launch on Oct. 10 that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

U.S. ambassador Hans Klemm, speaking at a joint ceremony with Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu, said the shield was designed to thwarth potential threats coming from outside Europe.

Both Klemm and Comanescu stressed it was not a measure against Russia.
"It is not, I repeat, not, directed at Russia, nor does it have the capability to threaten Russia," Klemm said. "We have explained this to Russia on numerous occasions."

The Iranian test has intensified concerns among U.S. lawmakers about an international nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

A team of sanctions monitors found on Tuesday that Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution by test-firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.