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Russia Wants Officers at Missile Sites

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

MOSCOW —  Moscow wants Russian military officers permanently stationed at planned U.S. missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic to make sure the facilities are not targeting Russia, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

Sergey Lavrov warned that Polish and Czech resistance to the idea could "devaluate" U.S. proposals intended to assuage Russian concerns about the missile shield.

His statement signaled that prospects for settling the U.S.-Russian rift over missile defense are low despite recent American attempts to soothe tensions.

Lavrov also warned that a U.S. failure to respond to Moscow's concerns on missile defense would prompt Russia to deploy weapons capable of piercing the missile shield in order to protect its security.

"Russia would respond with military-technical measures," Lavrov said.

He said that Moscow wants to make sure that the battery of 10 U.S. missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic are not directed at Russia.

"We are mostly interested in two things: a permanent presence of our officers and a reliable means of technical control," Lavrov said.

The United States has said it would be willing to allow periodic Russian inspections of the two proposed sites, if the Czech and Polish governments approved.

But Warsaw and Prague have opposed any permanent Russian presence, a highly contentious notion for two nations that endured Moscow's control and the presence of Soviet troops during the Cold War.

Poland's top missile defense negotiator, Witold Waszczykowski, called the Russian demand "too far-fetched."

"The installation could be accessible to visitors or inspectors, but we don't think there is any need for a permanent presence of Russian inspectors there," Waszczykowski told the PAP news agency from Moscow after consultations Tuesday that failed to narrow differences.

Lavrov acknowledged that Polish and Czech officials "don't even want to hear about a permanent Russian presence."

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and President Bush failed to overcome differences over the system during a weekend meeting at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The Czech Republic has agreed to host the radar base, while Poland is still in negotiations with the U.S. on the matter. Warsaw essentially favors the deal, but is attempting to win military concessions in exchange from Washington.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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