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Russia Says U.S. Seeking Nuclear Superiority

Sergei Lavrov (file photo) (AFP) February 21, 2007 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States of seeking nuclear superiority over Russia.

In an interview published today, Lavrov dismissed U.S. claims that a proposed missile-defense system in Europe was aimed at Iran and North Korea.

Lavrov said the proposed location of the system, in Poland and the Czech Republic, was more suited to intercepting missiles launched from Russia.

Lavrov said Russia was not planning on launching any missiles, but he added that a missile-defense system would give the United States the chance to launch a first strike.

Lavrov also said the United States and Russia need to negotiate new arms-control agreements to strengthen mutual trust.

Also today, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski called for a fast conclusion to negotiations with the United States on the instalation of missile-shield silos in Poland.

Rice Says Russian Statements 'Unfortunate'

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice says Russian threats to target Poland and the Czech Republic are "unfortunate."

Rice was responding to comments made on February 19 by General Nikolai Solovtsov, who commands the Russian Strategic Missile Forces. Solovtsov said Russia would target Poland and the Czech Republic if the United States built parts of a missile-defense system in those countries.

Rice said Poland and the Czech Republic were "independent countries that make their own decisions."

"I think it's unfortunate that the Russian head of strategic rocket forces would come out and say that somehow Poland and the Czech Republic will now be on the target list of Russia," she said. "I think that was an extremely unfortunate comment. But we will continue to talk to Russia about these issues."

Rice said the missile-defense system was necessary to counter what she called "a growing Iranian missile threat."

Rice was speaking in Berlin ahead of a meeting of the Mideast Quartet, which Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is also expected to attend.

(compiled from agency reports)

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