March 7, 2009 / 11:35 AM / 10 years ago

Russia urges U.S. to heed its missile shield concerns

GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia called on the United States on Saturday to take Moscow’s concerns into account when it reviews plans to deploy a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe to counter nuclear threats.

Washington has proposed a missile shield to deflect what it sees as the risk of nuclear strikes from Iran on Europe, but the administration of President Barack Obama, who is lukewarm on the plan, is reviewing options.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that a system deployed in Eastern Europe would be seen by Moscow as a threat to Russia.

“If a third positioning area in eastern Europe is actually created this would involve risks for the strategic interests of the Russian Federation. We would have to take account of measures to alleviate this risk,” Lavrov said after addressing the United Nations-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“At the same time, we would prefer not to move in this direction,” he said.

Lavrov said he had given this message to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva on Friday, when they had upbeat talks in their first one-to-one meeting.

Lavrov said he had asked the United States to take this into account when they review the shield plan, and said Moscow and Washington could work together to deal with any threat from the South without putting a system into Eastern Europe.

“We can even develop our ideas in more details which we will be doing and discussing with the Americans. We agreed to continue these discussions,” he said.

Last month U.S. officials said the United States had offered to slow deployment of a missile shield in Europe in exchange for Moscow’s help in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Lavrov also said Iran and its nuclear program were a “different issue” and voiced hope that the Obama administration would take a more active role in promoting a diplomatic solution on Iran with Russia and other powers.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jonathan Lynn

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