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Differences remain with Russia on missile defense: US

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) March 27, 2008
US and Russian officials ended two days of meetings here Thursday without bridging the gap on Washington's plans to deploy parts of a missile shield in eastern Europe, US officials said.

The two sides are intensifying efforts to end a row with echoes of the Cold War by planning more talks on missile defense at a summit in early April in Russia between US President George W. Bush and his counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The talks in Washington followed high-level meetings in Moscow last week.

"There are differences on missile defense. The two secretaries set the stage for progress, but there are differences that remain," acting secretary for political affairs Daniel Fried told reporters after two days of talks.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates met in Moscow last week with their Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Anatoly Serdyukov in a bid to ease Russian concerns about the project.

"This is pretty much what we expected," Fried said of the remaining differences during a telephone conference call with reporters.

But he said the two sides made progress on a strategic framework that Bush raised earlier this month in a letter to Putin aimed at mapping out future US-Russian ties on more than a dozen security, economic and other areas.

These issues range from missile defense to fighting terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation.

"And this strategic framework has sections on security that go beyond missile defense. It is a very substantive document. And so we made progress in all these areas, including this security area," Fried said.

The two days of talks here were led by US arms control expert John Rood and Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak as a follow up to Rice's and Gates' meetings in Moscow.

"We were prepared for lengthy and extensive negotiations over the last two days (after the Moscow meetings) and we're going to stay at this at a pretty intense pace with the hope of reaching agreement soon," Rood said.

But Rood said he could not guarantee that there would be agreement on the strategic framework document by the time Putin leaves office in May and hands over to president-elect Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin is widely expected to stay on as a powerful prime minister, however.

Russia opposes US plans to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic as part of an anti-missile system which Washington says is aimed at protecting against "rogue" states such as Iran and North Korea.

The Russian side has seen the shield as a direct threat to its security, especially with a radar installation that could survey parts of Russia's territory.

But, in an early sign of progress in tough talks, Lavrov said last Thursday that Washington gave Moscow guarantees that its proposed anti-missile shield "will be not directed" at Russia.

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Outside View: ABM talks deadlock -- Part 2
Moscow (UPI) Mar 26, 2008
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