Friday, June 18, 2010

Romania, US start talks on missile shield: official

(AFP)

BUCHAREST — Bucharest and Washington have launched negotiations on US plans to deploy elements of a new missile shield in Romania, officials said Thursday.

"I am happy to announce the formal start of negotiations on Romania's participation in the US anti-missile defence system in Europe," Romanian junior foreign affairs minister Bogdan Aurescu told a press conference.

Romania was officially invited in February by US President Barack Obama to be part of the missile shield.

The Balkan country will host SM3-type medium-range ballistic missile interceptors, which should be operational by 2015.

"I am here today with the US delegation to conduct consultations with our Romanian government counterpart on security issues of mutual interest including work on an agreement to station US missile defense assets in Romania," Ellen Tauscher, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, said.

"We look forward to working together to enhance European security and strengthen our partnership," she added.

Aurescu said a new meeting should take place in about two months' time.

Washington originally planned to install an anti-missile shield in Poland and the neighbouring Czech Republic, aimed at countering feared attacks from Iran.

In September 2009 US President Barack Obama scrapped that project, which had been pushed by his predecessor George W. Bush and enraged Russia.

Washington has since reworked the scheme and signed a new treaty with Moscow on reducing strategic nuclear weapons, which has yet to be ratified.

Russia has said it reserves the right to withdraw from the treaty if Washington presses ahead with missile defence systems in eastern Europe in a way that Moscow opposes.

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