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Ballistic missile defence linked to Iran, says Gates

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Defense Secretary Robert M Gates (right) speaks with Polish special forces soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan at the II Mech Corps Headquarters in Krakow, Poland, Feb 19, 2009. Gates was in Poland to attend to Krakow Defense Ministry

KRAKOW (BNS): US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates speaking ahead of the NATO defence ministers meeting said that a NATO ballistic missile defence system wouldn’t be required if there was no threat from Iran.

“We continue to be very concerned about the Iranian missile threat, particularly as they continue to work on what we believe are weapons of mass destruction,” Gates said.

The defence secretary said that he had told the Russians last year that if there was no Iranian missile programme, there would be no need for the missile sites. Recently, Iran launched a low-Earth-orbit satellite showing the nation’s capability to launch payloads farther and more accurately.

Earlier, NATO had agreed to a ballistic missile defence that would pose any threat from Iran. The Czech Republic would host a radar for the system, with the missiles based in Poland, which has been vehemently opposed by Russia.

“The fact is that with the economic crisis, Afghanistan and Iraq, the administration has not yet reviewed where it is on a whole range of issues, including ties with allies, the missile defence programme and relationship with Russia,” the secretary said, adding that all these things were tied together, including Iran.

With a new administration in Washington, Gates hoped that the prospects for cooperation from Russia would improve.

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