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Iranian missiles are a potential threat to Russia: US

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Defense Secretary Robert M Gates (L) and French Minister of Defense Herve Morin share a laugh while answering a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the Pentagon, March 3, 2009. DoD photo

WASHINGTON (BNS): If Iran stops producing missiles then there would be no need for defence capabilities in Eastern Europe, Defence Secretary Robert M Gates said here on Tuesday.

Addressing a media conference, Gates said that he had told the Russians a year ago that if there was no Iranian missile threat, there was no need for the third site in Europe. Gates made this remark while replying to a query on a letter President Barack Obama sent last month to his Russian counterpart Dmitri A Medvedev.

He said that this was not to put the Russians on the spot. “I think it is trying to re-open a dialogue and say, we are open to talking with you about how we address this problem and how we can move forward,” Gates said.

The defence secretary suggested using an already discussed alternative of incorporating a full US-Russian partnership in missile defence, citing a commitment to European missile defence. “Iranian missiles are a potential threat to Russia,” he added.

Gates said that the situation was such that the missiles that the Iranians were testing could reach a good part of Russia, as well as Eastern Europe and part of Western Europe. He said that at this point, the Iranian missiles could not reach the US, but the European missile defence was restoring commitment.

NATO agreed to a ballistic missile defence that would protect against a launch from Iran at the NATO defence leaders meeting in Krakow, Poland, last month. The radar for the system would be placed in the Czech Republic while the actual missiles would be based in Poland.

The defence secretary said that defence ministers in both the nations were pushing forward for the programme, which had been discussed in 2007 by the Bush administration.

The missile defence issues were among several other important matters on Obama’s list, gates said.

During the day, at news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama said he had sent a lengthy letter to the Russian president discussing a whole range of issues from nuclear proliferation to terrorism.

The US president said that the communication with Russia does not lower his promise “to making sure that Poland, the Czech Republic and other NATO members are fully enjoying the partnership, the alliance and US support with respect to their security.”

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