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. Iran poses no missile threat, Russia tells US
TEHRAN, June 20 (AFP) Jun 20, 2007
Russia on Wednesday bluntly told the United States it sees no security threat from Iranian ballistic missiles and "does not understand" how this could justify a planned US defence system in Europe.

"We do not see any kind of threat from Iran," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference after a meeting in Tehran of foreign ministers from Caspian Sea states.

"Thus, we do not understand why in order to justify the installation of a US anti-ballistic missile system in Europe you have to bring up the pretext of a genuine Iranian threat," he added.

The United States plans to locate a powerful missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic as well interceptor missiles in Poland to combat what it says are threats to global security.

Russia vehemently opposes either location for the planned US system.

"On many occasions we have mentioned professional opinions, expertise and analyses about the absence of such a threat," said Lavrov.

Two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that the United States locate part of the system at the Russian-leased radar station at Gabala in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.

"If, on the American side, there is a suspicion of such a threat, then Putin offered that such a suspicion could easily be removed through the information collected through the radar station at Gabala," said Lavrov.

The United States has said that it is examining Putin's counter proposal for a joint Russian-US radar in Azerbaijan but US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has already made clear this would be no substitute for the Czech-based radar.

Iran has an array of medium-range missiles and claims that its longer-range Shahab-3 missile has a reach of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles), which would put US bases on the Arabian peninsula within reach.

The United States has expressed concerns about Iran's regional ambitions, especially after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map".

The Islamic republic insists it would never be the first to attack although it has warned it would hit back with force if the United States launched an military strike against Iran.

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