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Ukraine Ready To Work With West On Missile Defense

Ukraine says it is ready to make its missile warning systems available for Western countries after Russia announced it was pulling out of a long-term missile defense agreement.

The offer comes amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the military conflict in Georgia, and follows Poland's agreement to host elements of a U.S. missile defense shield that Moscow strongly opposes.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russia's abrogation this year of an agreement involving two tracking stations allows Ukraine to cooperate with other countries on missile warning systems and satellite tracking.

President Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree this week putting an end to Ukraine's participation in the 1992 accord in view of Russia's own abrogation of the deal in February, that came in response to Ukraine's application for NATO membership.

The statement says the country could invite European partners to integrate their early-warning systems. It says Kyiv is also ready to deal with "foreign countries interested in getting information about the situation in space."

The announcement is seen as further evidence of Ukraine's efforts to move closer to the West on security issues.

Ukraine's leadership has been increasingly at odds with Russia on a wide range of foreign-policy issues, including Russia's conflict with Georgia, a close ally of Ukraine, over South Ossetia.

On August 13, the Ukrainian president's office issued a decree ordering Russia to request permission to move its warships based in the Crimean peninsula.

The deputy chief of the Russian armed forces' General Staff, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, dismissed the order as "nonsense."

"As for the Black Sea Fleet, we adhere to agreements that were signed by both sides. Those agreements clearly defined the status of our Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol and were not called into question until the Ukrainian side changed its mind," Nogovitsyn said.

"We are working on this issue now. I think we will see some decisions made soon. The current situation cannot remain as it is for long, he added. "Obviously, we need negotiations in a bilateral format again in order to reach an agreement."

Russia was also angered by a preliminary deal allowing the United States to site missiles in Poland, which Washington says is needed against "rogue states" such as Iran.

Under the deal, signed by Poland on August 14, the United States will install 10 interceptor missiles at a base on the Baltic coast in return for help in strengthening Polish air defenses.

Nogovitsyn said the move will further harm ties with the West already strained by the Georgian conflict.

"When one party agrees to host [a foreign facility], of course, it assumes certain responsibilities. And we're talking about a military facility in this case, so there is additional [responsibility]," Nogovitsyn said.

"Certainly, any facility is the target -- excuse me, I mean the subject of the interests of another country. So, of course, one has to be careful with that," he said. "A bordering country always makes it its priority to strike such installations [in case of conflict]. So, it is not simply -- it cannot go unpunished from the point of view of [its] military use and so on."

Poland says the timing of the missile deal had nothing to do with hostilities in Georgia.

compiled from news agencies

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