Iran Nuclear NewsUS missile shield threatens resolution of Iran stand-off: Russia

US missile shield threatens resolution of Iran stand-off: Russia

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AFP: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that US missile defence shield could worsen the Iranian nuclear stand-off and urged Washington to freeze work on the plans with the Czech Republic and Poland. by Nick Coleman

MOSCOW, June 9, 2007 (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that US missile defence shield could worsen the Iranian nuclear stand-off and urged Washington to freeze work on the plans with the Czech Republic and Poland.

Lavrov said that the United States should take time to study a proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin made at the Group of Eight summit this week to use an alternative radar station in ex-Soviet republic Azerbaijan.

“It’s necessary to freeze the deployment of missile defence systems in Europe for a period of study and analysis,” Lavrov was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying.

He went on to say that the US missile defence plans could “seriously complicate” efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to resolve the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Work is under way within the framework of the United Nations, the IAEA. We want this to fully clarify all aspects. The deployment of the missile shield in Europe may complicate these efforts, put in question Iran’s willingness to openly cooperate,” Lavrov said.

He said that having agreed to carry out a “deep expert examination of missile defence” at their meeting this week in Germany, Putin and US President George W. Bush were sure to return to the issue when they meet again at a Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine on July 1-2.

The United States suspects Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons under cover of its stated aim of civilian nuclear technology, a charge that Tehran denies.

Russia has strongly objected to the US plans to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and linked interceptor missiles in Poland — both European countries that were under Moscow’s control in Soviet times.

Putin has threatened to direct Russia’s own missiles at the planned missile defence installations in Europe, raising fears of a new Cold War.

But on Thursday the Russian leader came up with his compromise proposal, saying that the radar in Azerbaijan, which is currently under Russian control, could be shared with Washington for missile defence.

Lavrov insisted that information from the Gabala radar in Azerbaijan, which Putin said could be used jointly by Russia and the United States, is sufficient to meet Washington’s needs.

“At the moment there is enough information on hypothetical threats provided by the radar station in Azerbaijan. It is a reliable warning station.

“Joint use of information from the station would allow the United States to refrain from deploying elements of the missile shield in Europe and from deployment of its space components,” he said.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer welcomed the proposal but along with some analysts voiced doubts about the Azerbaijani radar’s ability to meet US requirements.

De Hoop Scheffer said it appeared “a bit close to the ‘rogue states’ we are discussing,” referring to Iran.

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