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Defense chief says missile defense a go

Published June 15, 2007


BRUSSELS - The United States will proceed with its plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe whether or not any agreement is reached on an alternative Russian proposal, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Gates dismissed any thoughts that Russia's push for joint use of a radar station in Azerbaijan could replace the U.S. plan for radar and interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic. And he expressed doubts that there could be any agreement with the Russians by next month, when President Bush is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Gates' comments at a NATO meeting came as Russian officials called for a freeze on the U.S. plan and reportedly issued threats against the planned sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Gates said Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who was at the NATO meeting, did not comment on his remarks.

Meanwhile, NATO ordered its military experts to draw up plans for a possible short-range missile defense system to protect nations on the alliance's southern flank that would be left exposed by proposed U.S. anti-missile units in central Europe.

A final decision on building the NATO system is expected at an April 2008 alliance summit in Romania, but the study puts the U.S. proposal into NATO plans for the first time.

According to U.S. and NATO officials, the addition of the European bases to antimissile installations in North America would protect most of Europe from the threat of long-range attack from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East. But it would leave Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and parts of Romania exposed.

Russia has threatened to retaliate by pulling out of a key arms control treaty and pointing warheads at Europe for the first time since the Cold War.

[Last modified June 15, 2007, 01:22:26]

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