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U.S. Says It's Not Eyeing Non-NATO States For Shield

Alexander Vershbow, assistant U.S. secretary of defense, in Tbilisi
TBILISI (Reuters) -- The United States does not envisage placing any elements of a revised missile-defense system within non-NATO members and is not in consultations with any such states, a senior U.S. defence official has said.

The comments by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow followed concern expressed in Russia last week at reports Washington was in talks with Ukraine over a revised defense shield.

"We are not consulting with any non-NATO countries and we do not envisage the placement of elements of our new architecture on the territory of non-NATO member states," Vershbow told reporters in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

Russia has welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to scrap Bush-era plans for a missile-defence system in Central Europe, which it saw as neutralizing its own nuclear arsenal.

But it voiced concern last week over a U.S. statement that countries like Ukraine could contribute early warning information as part of a revised shield plan.

The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush had planned to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic to repel potential attacks from Iran.

Under Obama's new plans, sea- and land-based missile interceptors would be deployed and the system would not require one large fixed radar center in Europe.

Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, Oleh Shamshur, was quoted by Russian news agencies last week as saying that talks with Washington on the use of radar stations had already begun.

Vershbow said Washington was in consultations with Russia over missile defense.

"We began some very preliminary discusssions with Russia about possible contributions it could make with its own assets to cooperative missile defense, but these discussions are at the very early stage," he said.