Russia, U.S. agree to keep studying missile defense

MOSCOW Mon Jul 6, 2009 11:36am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed Monday to keep talking about a joint response to ballistic missile proliferation, a thorny issue between their countries.

The two leaders issued a statement calling on nations with missile potential "to refrain from steps that could lead to missile proliferation and undermine regional and global stability."

Obama has acknowledged Russian sensitivities over U.S. proposals to build missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia sees the plans as a threat to its security.

Obama reiterated in an interview before his trip the U.S. stance that any system would be employed to fight a missile threat from Iran, not from Russia, and said he hoped to persuade Moscow to join the project.

The two men said their countries would keep talking.

"Russia and the United States plan to continue the discussion concerning the establishment of cooperation in responding to the challenge of ballistic missile proliferation," they said in the joint statement.

"Our countries are intensifying their search for optimum ways of strengthening strategic relations on the basis of mutual respect and interests."

The leaders said U.S. and Russian experts would analyze "the ballistic missile challenges of the 21st century" and prepare recommendations, giving priority to political and diplomatic measures.

They would also conduct a joint review of all ways the two countries can cooperate in monitoring missile programs around the globe.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason)

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