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Russia plays down missile differences with US


MOSCOW (AFP): Russia has said it may be ready to drop its objections to the US-backed missile defence shield for Europe if it receives a formal security pledge from the United States.

The comments by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggest an easing of Moscow's position and precede a meeting between US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of G8 summit in France next week.

Lavrov said during talks with the German and Polish foreign ministers that missile defence negotiations with the United States and NATO were "progressing but slowly."

"We are proposing, and asking for it to be put in writing, that the missile defence system for Europe is not directed against any of the participating states – not NATO, Russia or other European states," Lavrov said.

"We are told there is no need to get this down in writing because this is inherently the case," he told a televised news conference.

"But if it is inherently not aimed against Russia, why not write (that) down?" he asked.

Lavrov's nuanced language appears aimed at easing tensions between Washington and Moscow on the eve of the Group of Eight (G8) summit talks next Thursday and Friday.

Russia has previously sought veto power in the system's operation – a subject not broached by Lavrov.

President Dmitry Medvedev used a closely watch pre-election television appearance this week to warn the United States of a return to the Cold War should the shield be constructed despite Russia's objections.

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Missile  Defence  

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