December 18, 2015 / 11:00 AM / 3 years ago

U.S. missile defense site in Romania becomes operational

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A new U.S. missile defense site south of Bucharest that will defend against potential attacks from Iran has been completed, the United States and Romania announced on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm (centre R) and Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lazar Comanescu arrive for a ceremony at the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, in Bucharest, Romania December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

The Aegis Ashore site includes a powerful radar, missile interceptors and communications equipment.

Vice Admiral James D. Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, delivers a speech during a ceremony at the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, in Bucharest, Romania December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

The system has been handed over to military commanders, who are expected to declare it operational, or ready for initial combat use, in early 2016 as they integrate the site with NATO’s broader ballistic missile defense system.

It coincides with deliberations by U.S. officials about how to respond to an Iranian ballistic missile launch on Oct. 10 that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions.

U.S. ambassador Hans Klemm, speaking at a joint ceremony with Romanian Foreign Minister Lazar Comanescu, said the shield was designed to thwarth potential threats coming from outside Europe.

Romanian Defense Minister Mihnea Motoc delivers a speech during a ceremony at the Romanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, in Bucharest, Romania December 18, 2015. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

Both Klemm and Comanescu stressed it was not a measure against Russia.

“It is not, I repeat, not, directed at Russia, nor does it have the capability to threaten Russia,” Klemm said. “We have explained this to Russia on numerous occasions.” 

The Iranian test has intensified concerns among U.S. lawmakers about an international nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

A team of sanctions monitors found on Tuesday that Iran violated a U.N. Security Council resolution by test-firing a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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