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September 20, 2009

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Russia to scrap missile plans after US decision

RUSSIA will scrap a plan to deploy missiles near Poland because the United States no longer wants to place a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, a Russian deputy defense minister said yesterday.

Vladimir Popovkin said US President Barack Obama's move has made the deployment of Iskander short-range missiles in the Kaliningrad region unnecessary.

"Reason has prevailed over ambition," Popovkin said. "Naturally, we will cancel countermeasures which Russia had planned in response."

Popovkin's statement was the most explicit declaration yet of Russia's intention to scrap the plan after Obama's decision, announced on Thursday, to halt Eastern European missile defense plans.

Popovkin later added, however, that a final decision could only be made by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev hasn't yet spoken on the issue.

Russia staunchly opposed the plan by the former administration of George W. Bush to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related radar in the Czech Republic and said if the project went ahead it would respond by deploying the Iskander missiles in its Baltic Sea region.

Obama's decision to scrap the plan was based largely on a new US intelligence assessment that Iran's effort to build a nuclear-capable long-range missile would take three to five years longer than originally thought, US officials said. The new US missile-defense plan would rely on a network of sensors and interceptor missiles based at sea, on land and in the air as a bulwark against Iranian missiles.

Medvedev hailed Obama's decision as a "responsible move," but Russian officials have given no indication yet of Moscow edging closer to the US stance on Iran. Washington is counting on Moscow to help raise pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

Obama and Medvedev are due to meet at the United Nations and the G20 economic summit this week.


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