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French President Urges U.S., Russia Missile Freeze

Nicolas Sarkozy (right) and Dmitry Medvedev at the EU-Russia summit in Nice

Nicolas Sarkozy (right) and Dmitry Medvedev at the EU-Russia summit in Nice

NICE, France (Reuters) -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he has won Russian backing for talks on security in Europe next year, and urged both Moscow and the United States to freeze their missile plans until then.

Speaking after an EU-Russia summit in Nice, Sarkozy said he voiced to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev concerns about the Kremlin's threat to deploy missiles in the Kaliningrad exclave near Poland in response to U.S. plans for an antimissile shield in Europe.

"I indicated to President Medvedev how concerned we were about this declaration and how there should be no deployment in any enclave until we have discussed new geopolitical conditions for pan-European security," Sarkozy said.

"As president of the European Union, I proposed that in mid-2009 we lay down the foundation for what could be the future of European security," he said. France holds the rotating EU Presidency till the end of the year.

Sarkozy said such a summit, possibly under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) security body, would not be conclusive but could lay the foundations for a future European security pact.

"Between now and then, don't talk about deployment of a missile shield, which does nothing to bring security and complicates things," he said referring to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Medvedev Urges No Unilateral Steps

Medvedev said his remarks on deploying missiles in Russia's western outpost of Kaliningrad were a reaction to the U.S. plans, which Moscow sees as a threat despite Washington's assurances that they are aimed at protecting the United States and its European allies from "rogue" states such as Iran.

"We urge all to refrain from unilateral steps which influence security until the new pact is signed," Medvedev told the joint news conference with Sarkozy.

"Russia has never made such steps unilaterally."

Sarkozy added that a summit of NATO leaders set for April could also discuss ideas to be addressed at the Russian talks.

The Nice summit came after EU states agreed on November 10 to relaunch talks on a broad partnership pact frozen after Russia's August military incursion into Western ally Georgia. The two sides still have still to set a date for this.

Sarkozy said Russia had to a large extent complied with a French-brokered cease-fire in Georgia, but still needed to withdraw its troops from two disputed enclaves.

Acknowledging reservations among some EU states about restarting talks with Russia, Sarkozy said it was in the mutual interest of Russia and Europe to talk to each other.

"We do not need extra conflicts...more division, more wars, we need unity," he said.

After the summit Sarkozy and Medvedev were to fly directly to Washington to join the G20 meeting of top economies on the global financial crisis. Sarkozy said the Russian and EU positions on the international financial system were very close.