Russia calls US shield proposals "positive"

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MOSCOW, Oct 24 (Reuters) Proposals put forward by Washington to ease Russian concerns over the planned missile shield in Europe are ''positive signs,'' a senior Kremlin aide said today.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week Washington had offered to delay the activation of parts of its European shield if Russia cooperated on the project.

Earlier this month, US officials said they had invited Russia to inspect elements of the planned shield as a confidence-building measure.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief adviser on EU-Russia relations, said the US proposals were ''interesting finds,'' though they would need further study.

''These first positive signs which have appeared are a source of hope,'' Yastrzhembsky told reporters. ''These are new elements.'' He said the proposals were largely the result of consultations in Moscow this month between Gates, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and senior Russian officials.

''If this continues, I think there is a chance we could reach agreement,'' said Yastrzhembsky.

The United States plans to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic as part of a system Washington says is needed to counter possible attacks from ''rogue states'' including Iran and North Korea.

Russia argues the system would be a threat to its security.

Putin has said Moscow will take unspecified ''reciprocal steps'' if Washington does not heed its concerns about the shield.

Reuters AK VP0230

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