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Russia worried by US missile defence plan
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Feb 26, 2010

Poland to receive first US missiles in April: ministry
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 27, 2010 - The first batch of United States Patriot missiles will be deployed in Poland in April, defence ministry spokesman Janusz Sejmej said Saturday. US troops tasked with operating the missiles will arrive at the same time, the PAP news agency quoted Sejmej as saying. The surface-to-air missiles are to be deployed in northern Poland some 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Poland's Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said last month that the choice of the site close to Kaliningrad had "no political or strategic meaning -- its good infrastructure is the only reason." Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Friday ratified an agreement on the future status of US troops in Poland, opening the way for the missile deployment. President Barack Obama in September scrapped a plan agreed in 2008 to install a controversial anti-missile shield system in Poland and the Czech Republic that had enraged Russia.

Romania in talks to host 20 US interceptor missiles
Sofia (AFP) Feb 26, 2010 - Romania is in talks with the United States to host 20 interceptor missiles as part of a planned US missile shield in Europe, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said Friday. Romania is in talks to host "20 interceptor devices at different locations in Romania," Baconschi told journalists in Sofia after meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Mladenov. "The talks will probably take a year and a half," the minister added. Bucharest agreed earlier this month to host medium-range ballistic missile interceptors as part of the revamped US defence system, expected to be operational by 2015.

Sofia had also recently insisted that it wanted to come under the shield and hinted it was also ready to host some of its elements. The announcement had angered Russia despite protests by top US officials that the shield did not target Moscow but was intended to protect against a potential threat from Iran.

Russia has serious questions over the aims of fresh US missile defence plans for Europe, the foreign ministry said Friday, in Moscow's strongest expression of concern yet over the new initiative.

"We still have serious questions regarding the true purpose of the US missile system," a ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, told reporters in televised remarks.

"Therefore we will continue to consistently oppose any dubious unilateral actions in relation to missile defence that can negatively affect international security."

His comments were Russia's strongest statement of concern after Romania said it would hold talks with Washington on hosting US missile interceptors and Bulgaria showed interest in taking part in a US missile shield.

Until now, the foreign ministry had only said it was concerned and was analysing the issue.

Nesterenko said: "We are again becoming witnesses to a hasty anti-missile arrangement for Europe when the fragile architecture of European security essentially becomes hostage to imaginary missile threats that are defined unilaterally."

Nesterenko voiced regret that Moscow was learning about the new US missile plans for Romania from media reports rather than directly from Washington and Bucharest, noting that it ran counter to Russia's idea of "equal partnership."

Last year Russia applauded US President Barack Obama's decision to shelve an initiative by his predecessor George W. Bush to place an anti-missile radar facility in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland.

But the apparent involvement of former Communist states Bulgaria and Romania in the Obama administration's replacement plan has irked Russian officials.

Earlier this month, Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov warned that Moscow could revive plans to base missiles in its western Kaliningrad exclave, located on NATO's doorstep, if the threat warranted such a move.

However, the Kremlin indicated on Friday that a central element of Obama's efforts to improve US-Russian relations -- the push to replace a key nuclear disarmament treaty that expired in December -- was still on track.

President Dmitry Medvedev's top foreign policy aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said that Moscow believed a replacement treaty for the 1991 START pact could be agreed within the next two months.

"We still consider March-April to be a realistic timeframe," Prikhodko told reporters.


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