'Russia-US talks may narrow differences over missile shield'

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Moscow, Mar 16 (UNI) Russia may hope to seal a document entailing earlier agreements on missile shield, signed during talks in Moscow between top Russian and US defence and foreign policy officials, former commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces Col General Viktor Yesin said today.

''If in the coming consultations the US side confirms in written form the earlier made verbal proposals, this will definitely be a weighty step towards easing Moscow's concerns about the US-proposed plan to deploy a third missile launch area in Europe,'' General Yesin told Interfax-AVN military news agency.

The US side made a verbal proposal during the Russian and US Foreign and Defence Ministers' talks in Moscow within the aegis of '2+2' talks in October 2007, which envisioned, among other things, the presence of Russian officers at missile sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, and the loading of interceptor missiles into silos only after a real missile threat emerges.

However, at their talks, in Moscow, the two sides failed to agree on missile defence issues.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov will hold second round of talks with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, under the '2+2' format in Moscow, on March 17-18.

General Yesin said, however, that even if these US proposals are implemented, ''a number of problems will remain.'' ''I think the key in a solution to the problem of the US global missile shield plan is to be found in the implementation of the 2000 Russian-US memorandum on the formation of a joint centre for the exchange of information from early-warning and launch-notification systems,'' he said.

''This would help form a global system to monitor the proliferation of missile technology, and rule out the risk of erroneous response to situations involving ballistic missile launches,'' General Yesin said.

Another military expert and the head of the Political and Military Analysis Institute's Analytical Department, Alexander Khramchikhin, expressed the hope that success will be achieved in the upcoming Russian-US consultations.

''If the United States agrees not to load anti-missiles into silos before exact information is received that Iran possesses intercontinental ballistic missiles and Russian experts get an opportunity to control this, one would be able to speak about progress in the talks,'' Khramchikhin said.

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