Reuters: The United States needs a shield against what it sees as a growing missile threat from Iran, despite a recent report showing it had halted its nuclear weapons program, a U.S. official said on Thursday. By Andras Gergely
BUDAPEST (Reuters) – The United States needs a shield against what it sees as a growing missile threat from Iran, despite a recent report showing it had halted its nuclear weapons program, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
Acting Undersecretary of State John Rood met Russian diplomats in Budapest on Thursday for a series of talks to allay Russian concerns about the radars and intercepting missiles Washington plans to place in the Czech Republic and Poland.
A U.S. intelligence report said last week that Iran had stopped its nuclear weapons program four years ago, but Rood said Iran’s ballistic missile capability was enough of a threat.
“We’d be concerned about the progression of that kind of capability regardless of the payload, whether that be conventional, nuclear, chemical or biological in nature,” Rood told a news conference.
Russia, which has long cast doubt on U.S. President George W. Bush’s warnings about Iran, considers the proposed missile shield in Europe a threat to its own security.
“We still see the missile threat evolving and that threat, which is real, continues to grow,” Rood said.
“There are more missiles and they are more sophisticated in the hands of countries we are concerned about, such as North Korea and Iran.”
Rood said the talks with Russian officials were taking place in Hungary because the location was convenient. NATO member Hungary has good ties with both the United States and Russia.
The largest eastern European NATO member, Poland, was initially eager to host the shield, but Rood said Poland now needed more time to think after the October election victory of the liberal Donald Tusk, who wants to mend ties with Moscow.
Tusk’s government has previously said it wanted to consult Russia over its hosting of the shield, a reversal from the previous administration’s stance to discuss it only with Washington.
“It’s a common occurrence that once a new government is elected, they take a little bit of time to take stock of the situation and organize themselves for something as consequential as a negotiation like this,” Rood said.
Rood will hold talks with the Czech government on Friday and he said negotiations would also resume soon with the government of Tusk, who replaced the conservative Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who had had a number of damaging rows with Moscow.
Rood did not say the two sides had reached any agreement on Thursday and the Russian delegation did not speak at the news conference.
(Editing by Caroline Drees)