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Russia denies US 'trade-off' on Iran

RUSSIA'S President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday that Moscow would cooperate with Washington in dealing with the Iranian nuclear standoff, but added there was no talk about a quid pro quo on missile defense and Iran.

Medvedev said Moscow was encouraged by positive signals from Washington, but the United States had not offered a trade-off related to Iran.

The New York Times reported that US President Barack Obama suggested in a letter to Medvedev that the US would back off plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe in exchange for help stopping Iran from developing long-range weapons.

Medvedev said he had talked with Obama over the phone and exchanged letters with him, but added that there was "no talk about some kind of trade-off, or quid pro quo."

"No, issues haven't been put that way, it would be unproductive," he said at a news conference following talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Medvedev reaffirmed a strong opposition to the previous US administration's plan to deploy a battery of missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic, saying the move would hurt security in Europe.

"We have always said that a Russian participation in the (missile defense) project is all right. We would welcome that. If the Russian administration signals it is ready to discuss the missile defense it is a good thing. The system is not aimed against Russia," Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said.

Obama has not said how he intends to proceed, but stressed the system must be cost-effective and proven, and that it should not divert resources from other national security priorities.

Medvedev said Russia was encouraged by the Obama administration's readiness to discuss Moscow's complaints.

"Our American partners are ready to discuss this problem, and that's already positive," he said. "Several months ago we were hearing different signals: The decision has been made, there is nothing to discuss, we will do what we have decided to do. Now I hope the situation is different."

"But no one is linking these issues to some kind of trade-offs, particularly on the Iranian issue. We are already working in close contact with our US counterparts on the Iranian nuclear issue."

Russia has maintained close economic ties with Iran and is building its first nuclear power plant, which is expected to go online later this year.

While saying it does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, Moscow has failed to back Washington's tough approach to the country.

Medvedev also said that Russia could discuss other prospective joint missile defense plans that would engage the US, European nations and Russia.

He said that such a system must provide a global response to emerging threats.

"If the new US administration shows common sense and proposes some kind of new approach that would satisfy the United States, all the Europeans and would be acceptable for our country, we are ready to discuss it," he said.


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