Russia sees hope of missile progress with Obama

Russia hopes for constructive talks with the next U.S. administration on Washington’s planned missile defense system in Europe, Russian media quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Sunday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is seen in his Gorki residence ...
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is seen in his Gorki residence outside Moscow. Barack Obama is keeping people guessing about whether he will pursue a Bush administration plan to set up a missile shield in central Europe but analysts say Russia has shot itself in the foot with threats to deploy missiles in retaliation.(AFP/Ria-Novosti/Vladimir Rodionov)

A Russian deputy foreign minister said separately, in an interview with Interfax news agency, that Moscow would not carry out a threat to deploy tactical missiles near Poland if Washington scrapped its plans to deploy its missile system in Europe.

Washington says the missile defense shield, which would consist of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic, would help protect from missile attacks by “rogue states” such as Iran.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has supported work on a missile defense system, but says it must be “pragmatic and cost-effective” and cannot divert resources from other priorities until its effectiveness is proven.

“We have turned our attention to those positions which Barack Obama published on his site,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“They inspire a hope that we will be able to tackle these issues on a more constructive basis.”

Lavrov and Rice were taking part in a meeting of Middle East mediators.

Lavrov said proposals Russia had so far received from the outgoing U.S. administration to ease its concerns over the U.S. missile system “fall short of the agreements reached earlier at the level of the presidents.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged last week to station Iskander tactical missiles in the Kaliningrad region bordering Poland in response to the planned U.S. missile system.

Russia says it sees no prospect of Iran firing missiles at Europe and that the U.S. system is a direct threat to its national security.

The European Union this week expressed “strong concern” over Moscow’s plan to deploy the Iskander systems near Poland.

“There is a very important detail here — these plans (to deploy Iskander missiles) will be implemented only in case the U.S. missile defense system is launched,” Interfax quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying.

“If the United States does not deploy it, then the very need for Russia to take these precautionary measures will be removed,” Grushko said.

He said the EU “should not have pretended they are bewildered that Russia would take relevant retaliatory steps, because the U.S. plans undermine Russia’s strategic potential, which is a basis for global security.”

Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia will place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.(AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Louise Ireland at Reuters)

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