Russian minister criticizes U.S. push for missiles in Eastern Europe

WORLD DIGEST

February 10, 2007|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

SEVILLE, Spain -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has criticized U.S. moves to deploy parts of its missile defense system in Eastern Europe, saying yesterday that the plan to base interceptor rockets and radars in Poland and the Czech Republic appeared to be aimed at shooting down Russian weapons.

Ivanov was in Spain for the regular meeting between NATO's defense ministers and their Russian counterpart, and his remarks came just hours after his first face-to-face meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, in which the two discussed the U.S. missile defense plans.

At a news conference after the meeting, the Russian minister said that observers need only to "look at the school globe" to counter U.S. arguments that a Europe-based system was needed to destroy North Korean missiles, adding that U.S. claims that Iran posed a threat to Europe were also specious.

"Again, take a look at the map and calculate what territories can be reached by Iranian missiles," Ivanov said, contending that Tehran's current capabilities cannot reach beyond the Middle East and Central Asia.

Ivanov has raised similar objections in recent weeks, but U.S. officials insisted that he had also acknowledged that there was little threat posed by the system to Russian missiles.

"We've made quite clear to them that it's not directed at them," Gates told reporters traveling with him on his European swing.

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