May 9, 2007 / 1:58 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. says Russia can't alter missile shield plan

PARIS (Reuters) - Russia cannot alter a U.S. plan to set up a missile defense system in nearby Poland, a senior U.S. official said in an interview published on Wednesday that is likely to stoke Russia's anger over the project.

Washington has enraged Russia and unsettled some European allies with a plan to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic which it says would help shield Europe from possible missile attack by nations such as Iran.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Russian fears were unjustified as the project was purely defensive and could not be modified to launch attack missiles.

"The Russians need to review their information. And understand that they are not part of NATO, so they are not in a position to modify this project," Burns was quoted as saying.

"We have listened to them but they have been so intransigent in their position that most NATO allies now support our proposal," he added.

While European concerns about the missile shield appear to be easing, Russia has yet to be persuaded by U.S. arguments that the system is no threat to its nuclear deterrent and has so far rebuffed U.S. invitations to cooperate on the system.

Burns was speaking days before a planned visit to Moscow by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 14 and 15 where she is expected to seek to ease tension with Russia over the missile shield, Kosovo and other issues.

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