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NATO Chief Cautious On Putin's Missile Proposal

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (file photo) (epa) June 8, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has expressed caution about a Russian offer to place a joint Russian-U.S. missile-defense installation in Azerbaijan.

The United States has proposed deploying a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter threats from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea. Moscow opposes that plan, saying it threatens Russia's security.

At the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany, Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 7 proposed to U.S. President George W. Bush that instead of the current U.S. plan, Russia and the United States jointly use a radar facility in Azerbaijan.

Speaking in Brussels today, de Hoop Scheffer suggested the facility in Azerbaijan would be too close to Iran.

"It's a bit early to judge about the fact if an Azeri radar could do and could be the answer to the threats. I think it's a bit close to the 'rogue states' we are discussing," de Hoop Scheffer said.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman, meanwhile, called Putin's proposal "a constructive signal."

However, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra said the proposed Azerbaijani radar site "cannot replace" but can only "complement" the planned facilities in Central Europe.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said Baku is ready for consultations on Putin's proposal, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reported.

(with agency reports)

Moscow And Washington: Toe To Toe

Moscow And Washington: Toe To Toe

U.S. President George W. Bush (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G8 summit in Germany on June 7 (AFP)

MOUNTING TENSIONS. Relations between Russia and the United States have grown increasingly tense in recent months as issues like missile-defense, Kosovo's status, and Russia's domestic policies have provoked sharp, public differences. On June 5, U.S. President George W. Bush said democratic reforms in Russia have been "derailed"....(more)


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