Russia says still differences on US missile shield


The United States and Russia failed to bridge differences over a planned American missile shield program, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said after meeting US President George W. Bush on Monday.

Meeting for the first time since Medvedev was sworn in as president in May, the two leaders instead stressed areas where they had found common ground: preventing Iran from obtaining atomic weapons and ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “There are certain questions on our agenda where we agree, and these are the matters pertaining to Iran and North Korea,” Medvedev told reporters through an interpreter. “But then certainly there are others with respect to European affairs and this missile defense where we have differences,” Medvedev said after their hour long meeting. “We would like to agree on these matters as well.”

The United States is due to sign a treaty this week with the Czech Republic to build a missile defense radar there. Washington is also negotiating to put 10 interceptor rockets in Poland that it says will protect the United States and European allies from threats from “rogue states”, such as Iran. Russia sees the shield as a threat, and has said it will aim its nuclear missiles at central Europe if the shield is deployed. The United States counters that the 10 rockets are no match for Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Early in Bush’s presidency, US-Russian ties were considered warm -- with Bush saying he had looked into then Russian President Vladimir Putin’s soul and trusted him -- but relations have shifted into a tense rivalry. 

After their meeting, Bush and Medvedev appeared to try to stress their budding relationship even as Bush nears the end of his term. Medvedev called Bush by his first name and Bush described his counterpart as “confident, and I believe that when he tells me something, he means it.” The two also talked about Iran, trade, investment and the situation on the Russian-Georgia border, where separatists have been battling Georgian rule. “While there’s some areas of disagreement, there’s also areas where I know we can work together for the common good,” Bush told reporters. “I found him to be a smart guy who understood the issues very well.”

Medvedev’s chief political adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, told reporters after the meeting that the Russian president had raised particular concern about media reports of the United States placing interceptors in Lithuania. “This is absolutely unacceptable for Russia,” Prikhodko said. (Reuters)

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