NATO missile official cites cooperation with Israel

AIRPORT CITY, Israel Wed May 5, 2010 10:22am EDT

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AIRPORT CITY, Israel (Reuters) - Israel has held preliminary technical talks with NATO that could lay the groundwork for joint missile defenses, an alliance official said on Wednesday.

Citing a perceived threat from Iran, NATO has called on its 28 members to agree at a November summit in Lisbon to develop jointly a missile defense system to protect Europe.

While not a member of NATO, Israel has boosted cooperation with the alliance as part of its preparations for a possible show-down with the Iranians.

Appearing at a conference outside Tel Aviv, Alan Berry of NATO's Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Program Office was asked about the possibility of a future link-up with Israel, which has an extensive anti-missile system partly underwritten by the United States.

"We have already been provided some information about the Israeli test-bed," Berry said, referring to a computerized networking unit common to missile shields.

"We are happy to discuss things with Israel about our capabilities, and we are looking forward to future discussions in that area," he told the First Annual Israel Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference and Exhibition.

Also scheduled to appear at the two-day meeting were defense officials from the United States, Germany, Japan and India -- a turnout underscoring Israel's strategic outreach in the face of Iran's nuclear program.

Last year, U.S. President Obama shelved Bush-era plans to install a land-based missile shield in Europe to guard against long-range threats from Iran, in favor of sea-based Aegis interceptors and a second phase of land-based systems to which existing anti-missile hardware in NATO states could be linked.

Israel has held joint missile-defense maneuvers with Aegis ships that entailed meshing with the U.S. shield.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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