Russia, U.S. may reach deal on missile defense

By Xinhua

Moscow : The talks between Russia and America on missile defense might see an agreement that considers Russia's interests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

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A Russian-American working group on the missile defense, set up under an accord between Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush, meets for the first time on Monday in Washington.

The two-day consultations will be held behind closed doors.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, who is in charge of disarmament, leads the Russian delegation. Representatives of the two countries' defense ministries will attend the meeting.

Last week, Lavrov said at a meeting with Putin and key government members the working group would analyze "the threats in the missile proliferation sphere."

Putin has proposed the United States and Russia both use a radar station in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, rather than have the U.S. station missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.

Lavrov said he hoped the talks would lead to the implementation of Putin's, although he noted this would take the active engagement of other countries and the members of the Russia-NATO council.

Bush has described Putin's proposal as "interesting."

The Russia-NATO Council last met at the ambassadorial level in Brussels on July 26.

After the meeting, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department for security and disarmament affairs, Anatoly Antonov, said that Russia's initiative of missile defense cooperation with the U.S. was an alternative, not an addition, to America deploying a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

Russia's proposal is a package, and any element of it cannot be viewed separately, Antonov said.

Antonov said Russia's proposal had shown how radar stations in Gabala and in (southern Russia's) Armavir could work with information exchange centers in Moscow and possibly in Brussels to assess a missile threat from Iran," Antonov told reporters.

"Russia does not believe the threat. Iran is unable to create an intercontinental missile in the nearest future. With the help of our radar stations we can trace with one hundred percent confidence the beginning and development of Iran's missile program if it appears," he said.