No missile shield planned in Balkans -U.S. official

PODGORICA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The United States will not move any missile defences to the Balkans after President Barack Obama decided not to deploy any in Poland, a top U.S. official said on Thursday. Last week Obama dropped plans by predecessor George W. Bush for ground-based interceptor missiles in Poland and a related radar site in the Czech Republic to provide European protection from Iran's short- and medium-range missiles.

Under the new plan, Washington would initially use missile-capable vessels and in a second phase would field land-based systems, said Vice Admiral Richard Gallagher, deputy commander of the U.S. European Command.

"The intent is to use sea-based defence which, of course, has great flexibility as those ships can be moved to many different locations which gives us very good ... ability to employ," Gallagher said after meeting Montenegro's army chief of staff, Vice Admiral Dragan Samardzic.

The Bush Administration had proposed a missile defence system amid concerns Iran was trying to develop nuclear warheads it could mount on long-range missiles. Russia saw the move as a threat to its security.

After the U.S. change in plan, Balkan media speculated the missile shield might be deployed in the region instead.

Samardzic dismissed such claims as "pure speculation."

Gallagher said NATO "has not abandoned the missile defence discussions" and that "from the U.S. perspective, you have not seen a change in desires to protect the region and to work in conjunction with NATO as well". Montenegro, which seceded from its former federal partner Serbia in 2006, wants to join NATO and the European Union. (Reporting by Petar Komnenic; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic)