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Russia's defense minister says U.S.-Russian talks on missile defense 'close to dead end'
MOSCOW (AP) ' Russia's defense minister warned Thursday that talks between Moscow and Washington on the U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan in Europe are "close to a dead end" as officials scrambled to save the deal at a top-level conference.
Anatoly Serdyukov said that Russia, U.S. and NATO have not succeeded in overcoming the disagreements over the system that Washington says is aimed at deflecting potential Iranian threats.
"We have not succeeded in finding mutually acceptable solutions," Serdyukov said. "The situation is practically close to a dead end."
Moscow rejects Washington's claim the plan is solely to deal with any Iranian threat and has voiced fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.
NATO has said it wants to cooperate with Russia on the missile shield, but has rejected Moscow's proposal to run it jointly.
A top Russian defense official reiterated Moscow's offer on Thursday at a two-day conference with representatives from about 50 countries.
"A joint development of a conception of the European missile defense system that could strengthen security of every single country of the continent could be an optimal solution that would be adequate to possible threats and will not deter strategic security," Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said at the conference, which is bringing together Russian, American and NATO officials to discuss the issue.
Without a NATO-Russia cooperation deal, the Kremlin has sought guarantees from the U.S. that any future missile defense is not aimed at Russia and threatened to retaliate if no such deal is negotiated.
U.S. missile defense plans in Europe have been one of the touchiest subjects in U.S.-Russian relations going back to the administration of Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush.
One of Obama's earliest moves to ease tensions was the administration's 2009 announcement that it would revamp Bush's plan to emphasize shorter-range interceptors. Russia initially welcomed that move, but has more recently suggested that the new interceptors could threaten its missiles as the U.S. interceptors are upgraded.
Russia recently threatened to target missiles at the U.S. missile defense systems in Europe and just commissioned a radar in Kaliningrad, near the Polish border, capable of monitoring missile launches from Europe and the North Atlantic.
The missile defense plans follow a "phased-adaptive" approach using Aegis radars and interceptors on ships and a more powerful radar based in Turkey in the first phase, followed by radars and interceptors to Romania and Poland.