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Russia Snubs U.S. Call To Consider Hosting Radar

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia has spurned an offer from the United States to participate closely in its planned European antimissile system, instead urging Washington to drop its proposals and start afresh.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on June 9 that he was hopeful Moscow might consider hosting either radars or a data exchange center as it recognized the growing threat from Iran.

But Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman said on June 11 that Moscow would not entertain any novel ideas until Washington dropped its intention to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

"Only a rejection by the United States of plans to create a...missile-defense system in Europe could lay the groundwork for our fully fledged dialogue on questions of cooperation in reacting to potential missile risks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters.

Moscow has protested against the antimissile system, which it perceives as a threat to its own security and has also linked the scheme to negotiations on a new treaty to curb strategic nuclear weapons.

Nesterenko added that Moscow still hoped to find a way to reach a compromise with Washington.

U.S. officials have consistently stated that the planned deployment is aimed at preventing potential attacks from countries like Iran. Gates went further at a U.S. Senate hearing on June 9, saying Russia increasingly shared this view.

"The Russians have come back to us and acknowledged that [we] were right in terms of the nearness of the Iranian missile threat," Gates told a Senate appropriations hearing, according to the U.S. Federal News Service transcript.

"And we've made a number of offers in terms of how to partner, and I think there are still some opportunities -- for example, perhaps putting radars in Russia, having data exchange centers in Russia," Gates was quoted as saying.

Gates said he hoped there could be progress on this topic when U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Moscow from July 6-8, where he hopes to build on repeated calls from both capitals to "reset" relations.