Russia, US fail to make breakthrough on missile shield in Europe

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Moscow, Mar 18 (UNI) Russia and the US today failed to make a breakthrough on the US plans to deploy missile shield in Europe at talks here.

''We discussed issues on which no agreement has so far been reached,'' Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told newspersons after talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. The talks were held under the ''2+2'' format.

The US plans to deploy a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, claiming it would provide defence against ''rogue states'' such as Iran.

Russia has strongly opposed the US missile defence deployment, saying it would pose a direct threat to its national security.

Gates told reporters the talks had given the US side ''the chance to elaborate on a number of confidence-building measures to provide assurance to Russia that our missile sites and radars would not constitute a threat to Russia''.

He added specific proposals were being finalised in writing.

''The full range of what we are prepared to discuss with the Russians really is just now being put down on paper so the Russian side will not receive this in writing until the evening. I would expect that we will hear back reasonably quickly,'' he said.

Lavrov called the US proposals to ease Russian concerns ''useful and important''.

''We appreciate that the United States has acknowledged our reasonable concerns, and made proposals to ease them,'' he said.

Earlier, the US offered to give Russian officials access to the proposed sites to ensure the radar was not targetted at Russia and interceptor missiles are kept non-operational until Iran's long-range missiles had been proved as a threat.

Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of the prospect of better relations between Russia and the US.

Putin said he had received a ''serious document'' from President George W Bush that might help resolve a number of problems, including missile defence.

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