NATO, Russia missile shields must remain separate: Lithuania

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Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Saturday that Russia would never be given command power in a missile shield that NATO will erect over Europe.

"No way," Grybauskaite told reporters when asked about concerns that Russia could have the power to push the buttons in the planned system if Moscow accepts a NATO invitation to cooperate in the network.

"NATO is NATO. It will never be a joint organisation," she said ahead of a summit between the 28-nation alliance and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"The cooperation is about exchange of information and finding the shared enemy," Grybauskaite said, stressing that the defence systems of Russia and NATO nations would not be "integrated."

Lithuania, a former Soviet Baltic state, joined NATO in 2004.

US President Barack Obama and his NATO allies agreed on Friday to shield Europe's peoples from rogue rocket attacks with a screen of interceptor missiles, and to invite Russia to take part.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expects Russia and the Allies to begin a joint study of how Russia could be included in the missile defence system, which would be a significant softening of Moscow's position.

"I think, realistically speaking, we can't start by merging our systems into one common missile defence system," Rasmussen said on Friday.

"I think we should think of two separate systems that cooperate. We could exchange information and data and thereby make the whole system more efficient and give better coverage."

© 2010 AFP

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