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U.S. missile shield is provocation: Austrian minister

Austrian Defence Minister Norbert Darabos talks during a session of the Austrian parliament in Vienna July 5, 2007. Darabos has called U.S. plans for a missile defence shield in eastern Europe a "provocation" reviving Cold War debates. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos has called U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in eastern Europe a “provocation” reviving Cold War debates.

“That the United States are installing a defense shield in eastern Europe is a provocation in my view,” Darabos was quoted as saying in an interview with daily Die Presse on Thursday.

“The U.S. has chosen the wrong path in my opinion. There is no point in building up a missile defense shield in Europe. That only unnecessarily rekindles old Cold War debates.”

The remarks drew a swift reaction from Washington.

“We view the Cold War as being over. Such comments are not helpful and we now face a new strategic environment that requires us to move beyond Cold War thinking,” State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said.

“We’ve been open and transparent with all E.U. and NATO allies on this, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re discussing missile defense with the Russians,” Gallegos said at a news briefing.

The United States plans to deploy elements of its shield -- designed to intercept and destroy missiles from “rogue states” like Iran and North Korea -- in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia sees the initiative near its borders as a threat to its own security. On Tuesday Russia’s military chief told the Czech Republic that hosting the shield would be a “big mistake”.

Darabos said he saw no danger from Iranian long range missiles and the United States should try for a different solution.