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Iran Helps US Missile Shield

Several members in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's so-called grand coalition government had in the past criticized the U.S. system for sparking diplomatic tensions in Europe. Washington claims the missile shield is aimed at defending the United States and its allies in Europe against nuclear attacks from rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea. Russia, however, sees the American missiles as threats against its territory, and has accused Washington of provoking a new Cold War-like arms race. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Berlin (UPI) April 11, 2007
Iran's latest claim that it is capable of enriching uranium on an industrial level has encouraged proponents of U.S. plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe, but Moscow is still not amused.

After Tehran's nuclear threats, members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives even said more countries in Europe should think about participating in the U.S. anti-missile system.

"The U.S. defense system has to be expanded over all of Europe," Eduard Lintner, a foreign policy expert with Merkel's conservatives in Bavaria, told the Wednesday edition of German mass daily Bild. "In cases of emergency we also have to be willing to station rockets in Germany."

Ruprecht Polenz, one of the most senior foreign policy experts in Merkel's CDU party, told Bild that because of Iran's relentless nuclear ambitions, the question of a common defense shield should be discussed in a NATO framework. "We have a common interest to jointly develop a protection shield," he said.

The renewed support for the U.S. anti-missile plan, which foresees bunker-protected rockets to be stationed in Poland and a radar unit in the Czech Republic by 2011-12, comes after Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boasted about his country's ability to enrich uranium on an industrial scale.

Ahmadinejad didn't give the world any further details, yet Iran's Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, also the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, said it was Tehran's plan to install as many as 50,000 centrifuges in its Natanz plant.

While most experts doubt that Iran's nuclear program is as advanced as the president and other officials claim, the international community is nevertheless worried by the latest harsh words coming out of the Islamic Republic.

The German European Union presidency said Tuesday it was "concerned" and urged Tehran to "comply with the demands of the international community and to create the conditions for a return to the negotiating table and for a solution to the conflict surrounding the Iranian nuclear program."

Highly enriched uranium is used in civil nuclear energy but is also the prerequisite to build a nuclear bomb. The move comes just days after the end of a diplomatic spat with Britain over 15 captured sailors and marines.

No wonder the West is ill-humored over Tehran's latest advances; the German support for the anti-missile system, however, is not without controversy in the country itself. Several members in Merkel's so-called grand coalition government had in the past criticized the U.S. system for sparking diplomatic tensions in Europe.

Washington claims the missile shield is aimed at defending the United States and its allies in Europe against nuclear attacks from rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea. Russia, however, sees the American missiles as threats against its territory, and has accused Washington of provoking a new Cold War-like arms race.

The latest crises with Iran did not mean that a U.S. anti-missile system in Europe was justified, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wrote in a guest commentary for the Wednesday edition of the Financial Times Germany newspaper.

"We are convinced that no threat of this kind exists to Europe or the United States, either today or in the foreseeable future," Lavrov wrote. "None of the so-called rogue states possesses missiles that could seriously endanger Europe."

Setting up a unilateral missile defense system in Europe "would change the geo-strategic landscape of the continent," he said, and added that it would undermine efforts to solve the more acute global problems, such as the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lavrov, striking a nicer note toward the end, said Moscow was ready to conduct trilateral talks involving the United States, the European Union and Russia, and added that the best forum for such talks was the NATO-Russia council that meets in Oslo at the end of April.

Source: United Press International

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