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NATO says to explore missile shield cooperation with Russia

Russia and NATO will agree to explore ways to cooperate on a missile defence system at a summit this week that will mark a “fresh start” in relations, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday.

NATO leaders meeting in Lisbon on Friday and Saturday are expected to endorse a plan to mount a missile shield that will defend Europe from ballistic missiles and invite Russia to join the system.

“I think we are witnessing a fresh start in the relationship between NATO and Russia and maybe I could go further and say a fresh start in the relationship between Russia and the West,” Rasmussen told a news conference.

“I think this is of huge strategic importance,” he said.

The Western military alliance has made intense efforts to convince Russia that the system was not aimed against the former Soviet power but rather to counter threats from other countries armed with ballistic missiles.

Russia was deeply concerned about a previous US plan to install anti-missile systems in eastern Europe, but the alliance has sought to ease Russian concerns by inviting Moscow to cooperate in a new project.

“We will decide at the NATO-Russia summit in Lisbon to initiate a joint analysis as to how missile defence cooperation could be implemented,” Rasmussen said.

“Cooperation would clearly demonstrate that this system is not directed against Russia,” he said.

The NATO-Russia summit will take place Saturday following a two-day meeting of NATO leaders.