US wants Czech radar to spy on Russia formin

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MOSCOW, Sep 21 (Reuters) Russia said today that Washington is sceptical about Moscow's proposed alternative to the US missile defence shield in Europe because the real aim of the shield is to track Russian territory.

The United States and Russia have been bickering over Washington's plans to deploy a European missile shield which Russia says will hurt its national interests.

President Vladimir Putin has proposed using a Russian operated radar station at Qabala in Azerbaijan as an alternative to deploying the shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. But the Pentagon says Qabala cannot be a substitute.

''When our American colleagues say that Qabala will not replace a radar in the Czech republic, I understand them because Qabala cannot see Russian territory from its western borders to the Urals and the Czech radar can,'' Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with state-owned Rossiya television.

The United States says it needs to defend itself from missiles possibly launched by ''rogue states'' such as Iran and North Korea.

Moscow said that is not credible, and that the shield is really intended to spy on Russia.

Russia says the Qabala radar can provide the US military with early warning of any missile launches from the West Asia, removing the need for Washington to place elements of its planned missile shield in eastern Europe.

Moscow and Washington called an unspoken truce in their row over the missile shield while they discussed the Qabala proposal. But that truce appears to be crumbling as it becomes clear Washington still plans to go ahead with the shield.

REUTERS GT BD2314

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