Tags: NATO | Blasts | Russia | Over | Missile | Threat

NATO Blasts Russia Over Missile Threat

Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM

MOSCOW -- Russia's threat to aim its missiles at targets in Europe is out of step with the spirit of NATO-Russian partnership, the alliance's chief said on Tuesday after talks with President Vladimir Putin.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer advised all sides to "lower the volume" of rhetoric over differences between Russia and the West over issues including missile defense and the future of Serbia's Kosovo province.

Putin has said Russia would return to its Cold War stance of targeting its missiles at sites in Europe if Washington goes ahead with a plan - backed by NATO - to station parts of a missile defense shield near Russia's Western borders.

"The NATO-Russia relationship is one of partnership, and in the framework of the partnership these remarks about targeting missiles do not fit, and they do not have a place in these discussions," de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference.

"I do think that in this already fairly complicated discussion it is advisable to lower the volume a bit of the public comments made by the one or the other."

"As it is with your iPod, if you put the volume too high it will in the long run damage your ears ... There is no reason to speak with megaphones," he said.

The NATO chief stressed though that this warning did not apply to his Kremlin meeting with Putin, which he said was frank and constructive.

On Kosovo, de Hoop Scheffer said he had appealed to Putin to allow a vote on the province's future in the United Nations Security Council "as soon as possible."

Russia, which holds a veto in the Council, opposes a Western-backed proposal to set Kosovo on the path to independence from Serbia and has urged other members of the council to delay a vote on the issue.

NATO is still viewed with great suspicion in Russia, where officials say expansion eastwards shows the alliance is being used by the United States and top European powers to counter Russian influence.

Washington wants to station radar and interceptor missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic to form part of a missile shield it says will guard against attack from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

But the plan has driven a wedge between Russia and NATO members. Russia says the scheme will upset the post-Cold War strategic balance and is really aimed at its military capability, not Iran and North Korea.

Russia earlier this year provoked NATO concern by suspending its compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, a move the Kremlin linked in part to the U.S. shield.

Speaking earlier as he met the NATO chief, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledged Russia and the alliance were split on a number of issues.

"The positions of Russia and the countries of NATO are still not very close -- the problem of anti-missile defense, the problem of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and the problem of Kosovo," Lavrov told reporters.

In his opening remarks at his meeting with Putin, de Hoop Scheffer urged Russia to engage more closely with the alliance to bridge their differences.

"As far as the relationship is concerned, Mr. President, I see two key words, and those words are investment and engagement," Scheffer told Putin.

"Investment in the relationship because I think we can do better than we have done ... Engagement because I strongly believe there is no alternative to a good, healthy NATO-Russia relationship."

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MOSCOW -- Russia's threat to aim its missiles at targets in Europe is out of step with the spirit of NATO-Russian partnership, the alliance's chief said on Tuesday after talks with President Vladimir Putin. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer advised all sides...
NATO,Blasts,Russia,Over,Missile,Threat
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2007-00-26
Tuesday, 26 June 2007 12:00 AM
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