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Sofia (AFP) Feb 17, 2010
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov on Wednesday played down Russian protests over Sofia's plans to join a United States missile shield in Europe.
"This shield is not directed against threats coming from Russia. On the contrary, the threats that exist for us equally exist for our Russian friends," Mladenov told bTV television.
"We have to find a way to protect us all," he added.
Bulgaria said last week that it favoured new US plans for a shield in Europe to counter missile threat from Iran and the Middle East.
But the announcement angered Russia, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanding an explanation for the "surprise" decision by Bulgaria, which was reputedly the Soviet Union's staunchest ally in communist times.
"I cannot comment on the word 'surprise' in this case. There is dialogue between NATO and Russia, in particular on how Russia and the NATO countries can protect themselves against potential new threats," Mladenov said.
While Bulgaria wanted to come under the shield, it has not so far been engaged in any talks to host missile interceptors or any other of its elements, the minister said.
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