Russia softens stance on missile defence: report

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Russia has softened its stance on Western plans for missile defence over Europe but has set a number of conditions for its cooperation, Kommersant newspaper Monday quoted an official as saying.

"The situation has very much changed: If before in relation to the missile defence we used to say 'no, no and no', now we're saying 'yes but on certain conditions'," Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told the newspaper.

"Legal guarantees of the US and NATO missile defense not being directed against Russia are one of the terms of cooperation Moscow is offering," Antonov told the newspaper. "Otherwise, cooperation loses its meaning."

Russia wants details like the maximum amount and types of interceptor missiles, their speed as well as locations for missiles and radars should be to spelled out in a cooperation treaty, the report said.

Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov will participate in a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Brussels on Wednesday where he will seek to convince his Western colleagues to sign such a legally binding treaty, the report added.

The West plans to erect an anti-missile shield to protect Europe's populations and NATO and Moscow agreed at a key summit in Lisbon last November that the two sides would jointly study the possibility of working on that plan together.

The West however rejected President Dmitry Medvedev's idea of dividing the European continent into sectors of military responsibility, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen saying the two sides should keep their systems separate.

Antonov said Russia was open to suggestions even if the West was not interested in the so-called "sectoral approach" offered by Russia.

"We are not using ultimatums in our dialogue on the missile defence and not imposing the "sectoral approach" on our partners," he told Kommersant.

"The most important thing is to agree on the mutually acceptable terms of cooperation."

© 2011 AFP

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