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Russia issues fresh warning over US missile defence

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MOSCOW (AP): A US-led NATO missile defence plan that Washington says is aimed at deflecting potential Iranian threats will break existing nuclear parity with Russia and prompt it to retaliate, President Dmitry Medvedev has warned.

Moscow rejects Washington's claim the plan is solely to deal with any Iranian threat and has voiced fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.

"No one has explained to me why we should believe that the new missile defence system in Europe isn't directed against us," Medvedev said in a speech at a security conference on March 23, adding that the shield will "break the nuclear parity."

NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but has rejected Moscow's proposal to run it jointly. Without a NATO-Russia cooperation deal, the Kremlin has sought guarantees from the US that any future missile defence is not aimed at Russia and threatened to retaliate if no such deal is negotiated.

"I will say honestly that no matter how warm relations between me and my colleagues are, no matter how advanced relations between Russia and NATO member states are, we will have to take that into account and, under certain circumstances, respond," Medvedev said.

Earlier this week, he told the top Russian military brass that the armed forces must prepare to counter US missile defence plans even as talks between Moscow and Washington are continuing.

"By 2017-2018, we must be fully prepared, fully armed," Medvedev said, referring to his earlier threat to aim missiles at the US-led NATO missile shield if no agreement is reached.

Speaking at the conference, he reaffirmed that Russia isn't "shutting the door to dialogue" but warned that "time is running out."

"It's in our mutual interests to quickly reach mutually acceptable agreements," he said.

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