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Russia threatens to respond if US deploys missile shield


MOSCOW (PTI): In a setback to the Obama-Medvedev policy to 'reset' bilateral ties, Russia has threatened to take action if the US deploys its new missile defence shield in Europe close to its borders.

"The Russian military is looking for ways to protect our nation if Russia is not consulted in (missile shield) talks with NATO," Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov was quoted as saying by the Russian news agencies Friday.

Last week, Washington and Bucharest announced a deal to deploy missile interceptors in Romania, drawing criticism from Russia which fears the scheme may compromise its security by weakening its nuclear missile arsenal.

"There is not only talk, some serious work is also being done, the Defence Ministry should be prepared for the worst possible scenario," Antonov said.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama, who along with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev decided to 'reset' bilateral ties and conclude key nuclear arms control pact START-3, had shelved the Bush era's controversial plan to deploy missile shield radars and killer missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, seen by Russia as an attempt to cripple its nuclear deterrence.

Antonov's comments come hours after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Almaty in Kazakhstan that the talks were going through a complicated phase.

"So far this matter is proceeding with difficulty, but the Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) has assured us that measures are being taken on her side," Lavrov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

Lavrov, who is in Almaty to prepare for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, said he had met Clinton on the sidelines of Arctic Council meeting in Greenland Thursday and discussed the issue of missile defence.

"We agreed that it was necessary to give a political impulse to the work of experts, so that before our two Presidents meet in Deauville (France) for the G8 summit it will be possible to set out some results," Lavrov was quoted as saying.

Russia agreed to cooperate on NATO's European missile defence programme at a NATO summit in Lisbon last year, provided it was given a status of an equal partner in the future system allegedly being created to protect alliance members in Europe from 'rouge' missiles.

"It is a system that will defend NATO and, if Russia chooses to work with us in a cooperative manner, the system will defend Russia, too," US Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher was quoted as saying by the media.

The then President Vladimir Putin had earlier offered the joint use of Russia's Soviet-built missile attack early warning radar in Ghabala, Azerbaijan and a newly-built system in Krasnodar region as part of the common missile defence system in Europe, originally designed to detect nuclear missile launches by the US from the Indian Ocean.

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