BRUSSELS Russia is studying changes to the U.S. missile defense program, but still wants guarantees that the system would not be used against Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
U.S. and NATO plans to build an anti-missile shield around Western Europe to protect against attack from Iran and North Korea have been a major irritant in relations with Russia, which fears the system's interceptors could eventually shoot down its long-range nuclear missiles.
The Pentagon said last month it would station additional missile interceptors in Alaska in response to North Korean threats and at the same time forgo a new type of interceptor that would have been deployed in Europe.
This latter type of missile had caused most concern to Moscow, which believed it could be used to shoot down Russian strategic missiles. U.S. officials hope the change will end the standoff with Moscow.
Lavrov said he discussed the issue in his talks at NATO headquarters on Tuesday where he met NATO ministers, including his U.S. counterpart John Kerry.
"We are studying the proposals conveyed by the American side to us to further deepen the dialogue on missile defense cooperation. We are studying these proposals and the current developments and plans of the United States in this field," Lavrov told a news conference at NATO headquarters.
"We are ready for dialogue but cooperation could be only equitable, with clear-cut guarantees," Lavrov said.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Adrian Croft and Justyna Pawlak)