U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has deplored a Russian threat to target Poland and the Czech Republic if either government hosts a planned U.S.-built NATO missile defense system.

The secretary told reporters Wednesday in Berlin the recent threat from the commander of Russia's strategic forces, General Nikolai Solovtsov was "very unfortunate."

Rice said U.S. diplomats have given Russian authorities extensive briefings on the missile deployment plans. She said envoys have made it clear the proposed system is aimed at countering missile threats to U.S. allies from such states as Iran.

In Moscow Wednesday, visiting French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called for dialogue to dispel Russian suspicions. She said the talks should include NATO officials, as well as Russian and American participants.

Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow remains "seriously concerned" about the proposed system. But he also said his country will not use the deployment as a pretext to start a new arms race.

Lavrov said Moscow will react carefully to what he called "emerging threats" to Russia's national security, without engaging in confrontation. Lavrov also again voiced concern over recent NATO expansion in eastern Europe near Russian borders.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.