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NATO Chief, Russian Lawmaker Spar On Missile Defense

De Hoop Scheffer (left) with Mironov (epa) June 25, 2007 -- NATO's secretary-general and a top Russian lawmaker have held a heated debate over a proposed U.S. missile-defense system.

In a debate with Russian Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov broadcast on the Ekho Moskvy radio station, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer insisted that the proposed missile shield was not aimed against Russia.

"If it were true -- and in my opinion it is wrong -- that they are directly aimed against Russia, [even] under those circumstances it would have no effect on Russia," de Hoop Scheffer said.

Mironov asked, "Who is this aimed against?" adding, "When there are missiles at our is already a threat."

Moscow opposes U.S. plans to site parts of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently suggested the United States could share a Russian-leased radar station in Azerbaijan instead.

De Hoop Scheffer said Putin's proposal demonstrated that Moscow also saw a threat from rogue nations, such as Iran.

De Hoop Scheffer is in Russia for a two-day visit. He is due to attend a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council in Moscow on June 26.

(AP, Interfax, ITAR-TASS)

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