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US missile shield not targeting Russia, Bulgaria says
by Staff Writers
Sofia (AFP) Feb 17, 2010

NATO slams Russian military base pact with Georgian rebels
Brussels (AFP) Feb 17, 2010 - NATO on Wednesday denounced as "invalid" a Russian pact establishing a military base in the rebel Georgian region of Abkhazia, urging Moscow to revoke it. "NATO considers invalid agreements between Russia and the (Georgian) territories," which its 28 member nations do not recognise, alliance spokeswoman Carmen Romero said. The Russian-Abkhaz deal, signed in Moscow Wednesday during an elaborate "state visit" by rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh, builds on previous agreements allowing Russia to maintain thousands of troops and border guards in Abkhazia. The base pact allows Russian forces "to defend the sovereignty and safety of the republic jointly with the armed forces of Abkhazia," according to the text of the document, quoted by the RIA-Novosti state news agency. "NATO's position on this subject is unchanged," Romero said. "The North Atlantic Council has condemned the decision by the Russian Federation to recognise the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and calls on it to revoke this decision." NATO "continues to call on Russia to respect its engagements under the (2008) ceasefire accord concluded under EU mediation," Romero added. Russian troops fought a short war in Georgia in 2008 before Moscow recognised the independence of its rebel territories. So far only Nicaragua, Venezuela and the small Pacific island of Nauru have followed suit. Alliance nations call "in particular for the withdrawal of forces to the levels they were at before the conflict and access for observers to the whole Georgian territory," Romero stressed. According to Moscow, 1,700 Russian troops are currently deployed in Abkhazia, not including hundreds of border guards.

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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Transdniestr ready for Russian missiles: leader
Moscow (AFP) Feb 15, 2010
The leader of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniestr on Monday said he was prepared to host Russian missiles if the Kremlin wanted to counter planned US missile facilities. "We are not against the presence of Russian troops with standard and any other weapons on our territory," Igor Smirnov said in response to a question whether his region was ready to host Russian missiles. "We have ... read more

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