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Cautious Medvedev Open For Talks On European Missile Shield


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev were expected to discuss European security questions at their summit in Deauville, France.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he will attend a NATO summit next month in Lisbon but wants more details on an offer to cooperate with the alliance on an antimissile shield.

The comments came as Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrapped up a three-way summit in the French northern coastal town of Deauville.

Speaking at a joint press conference with the French and German leaders, Medvedev said his country was considering a NATO proposal that Moscow take part in developing the U.S.-led antimissile shield for Europe.

But he also urged NATO members to consider its fundamental purpose. "I think NATO itself needs to understand how it wants Russia to join this system, what kind of results this will produce, what kind of agreement we should reach, and how we should work in the future," he said. "We will be able provide our response with regard to European missile defense only after we have evaluated this proposal."

The United States and NATO say the system is aimed against a missile threat from Iran, but Moscow is concerned it could also be used to counter Russia's long-range nuclear arsenal.

NATO In Lisbon

Medvedev also said he had accepted an invitation to attend next month's NATO summit in Lisbon on November 20. "I think it will help reach the necessary compromises and, in general, help develop the NATO-Russia dialogue," he said.

Merkel welcomed the president’s decision to attend, saying: "We should be able to put the relationship between Russia and NATO on solid foundations."

She said she was pleased that Russia had expressed a willingness to collaborate on combating future threats.

"I think that Russia needs to answer the question about what it thinks about the missile-defense system. That is not for me to say. But I am happy that there is a basic readiness to discuss these themes and to put the NATO relationship against a rational background," Merkel said. "My opinion is, and Russia has repeatedly agreed with this, that the big threats like terrorism, the collapse of states, nuclear weapons, the big themes are a threat to all of us and as far as it is possible, we need to deal with them together."

Moscow had previously held back from responding to the invitation, saying it was wary about accepting it without more details about the bloc's missile-defense plan.

At the summit, the alliance is to unveil its new strategic concept for the next 10 years, which for the first time is not expected to characterize Russia as a threat.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen this month described Russia as a "partner" in a range of collective endeavors ranging from counterterrorism activities to a possible joint missile-defense venture.

The two-day talks in Deauville came during a period of significantly improved relations between Russia and Europe, with Medvedev spearheading a push to be more open to the West.

Outlining his vision for EU-Russian cooperation in the years to come, Sarkozy said that "in 10 to 15 years, the vision we must have is a common EU-Russia economic space, with freedom of settlement, with the abolition of visa requirements, and with common security concepts."

Besides Moscow's role in Europe's changing security architecture, the meetings touched upon Russia's role in Europe's "frozen conflicts" and Russia's goal of winning visa-free access to EU countries.

Medvedev said leaders "have the potential to solve all kinds of conflicts, including those which are considered to be frozen," adding, "Everyone must play their part."

with agency reports
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