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Russia Wants Guarantees Over U.S. Missile Shield

Sergei Lavrov also called on the West to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions.
WARSAW (Reuters) -- Russia wants the United States and its European allies to provide convincing guarantees that a planned missile-defense shield is not aimed against Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been quoted as saying.

Lavrov, on a visit to Poland, also urged the West to recognize what he called "the new realities" in the Caucasus and follow Moscow's example in recognizing the independence of the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"We are open to serious negotiations [on the missile shield]. If the United States and Poland are willing to guarantee that the European antimissile base is not aimed at Russia, then we are ready to consider concrete proposals," Lavrov told the "Gazeta Wyborcza" daily in an interview.

"But we should talk about guarantees, not of cosmetic political gestures," he said.

Russia strongly opposes U.S. plans to establish an antimissile shield in NATO members Poland and the Czech Republic, Moscow's Soviet-era satellites, saying they upset the balance of power by undermining its own nuclear arsenal.

Washington says the shield is no match for Russia's arsenal and is aimed solely at protecting Europe against possible attack by what it calls "rogue states," notably Iran, or by terrorists.

Poland agreed to host 10 interceptor missiles as part of the shield project at the height of the Georgia crisis last month, drawing Russian accusations that this proved the system was really aimed at Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed a military response to the Polish decision, though he has not said what shape this might take.

Tensions between Russia and the West have sharply escalated since Moscow sent troops and tanks into ex-Soviet Georgia following Tbilisi's attempt to retake rebel South Ossetia.

"With its aggression against South Ossetia and its violation of international arrangements, Georgia has given up its territorial integrity. We appeal to our partners to follow the Russian example and recognize the new realities," Lavrov said.

Along with the missile shield and the Georgia conflict, Russian energy exports to Europe are also expected to feature high on Lavrov's agenda in his Warsaw talks on September 11.

"Poland is for us one of the most important partners serving as a transit route for Russian energy resources to Western Europe," he said.