Saturday, May 07, 2011

Russia says breakthrough needed on U.S. missiles

(Reuters) - Russia and the United States must work hard to bridge major differences over the divisive issue of a European anti-missile shield, Russian news agencies quoted the nation's top general as saying on Friday.

General Nikolai Makarov, the head of Russia's military general staff, met with Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, days after Moscow criticized a U.S. deal to deploy a missile defense facility in Romania.

"We need to seek common approaches and breakthrough positions on this issue," state-run Itar-Tass quoted Makarov as saying after the meeting in St. Petersburg.

He expressed hope Russia and the United States could reach an agreement "despite a huge quantity of different opinions and differences in Russia and the United States on this issue," Itar-Tass reported.

Mullen, meanwhile, made a fresh attempt to reassure Russia that a missile defense system the United States is planning to deploy over the next decade will not compromise Russia's security by weakening its nuclear missile arsenal.

"The system is in no way aimed against Russia and its people," Itar-Tass quoted Mullen as saying. He said he had conveyed assurances from President Barack Obama's administration that the system is purely for defensive purposes.

The United States has said the planned shield is meant to guard against a potential threat of missile attacks by Iran.

The Obama administration pleased Moscow in 2009 by scrapping Bush-era missile defense plans calling for long-range interceptors operated from Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.

But Russia has said it still has concerns about the new plans for shorter-range interceptors, some based at sea.

Russia criticized a deal the United States sealed on Tuesday for Romania to host interceptors, saying Washington had pressed ahead with its missile-shield plans despite promises of cooperation with Russia.

As talks continue with little apparent progress, Russia is demanding an equal voice with the United States and NATO on plans for a European shield or, failing that, a binding guarantee that a Western shield would not target its missiles.

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