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U.S. to develop missile shield in Europe, consult Russia - Biden


MUNICH, February 7 (RIA Novosti) - The United States will continue to work on a planned missile defense system in Central Europe, but it will consult Russia, Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday.

"We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost effective," Biden said at the 45th Munich Security Conference, adding: "We will do so in consultation with our NATO allies and Russia."

Russia has consistently opposed the missile shield as a threat to its national security and officials have repeatedly expressed the hope that President Barack Obama would not follow through with his predecessor's missile defense plans.

Washington has agreed with Warsaw and Prague plans to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic by 2013. The United States says the defenses are needed to deter possible strikes from "rogue states" such as Iran.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said at the conference on Friday that the shield is aimed at Russia's nuclear deterrent, but added that Moscow would not follow through with its threat to deploy Iskander missile systems in the Kaliningrad Region if the United States gave up its missile shield plans.

Biden's message to Russia was mixed, suggesting more effort at engagement but giving little sign of movement on the core issues, such as the missile shield and NATO expansion.

"It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together," he said, identifying Afghanistan as an area for greater cooperation between NATO and Russia.

The vice president said the United States was willing to receive "ideas and consultations" from foreign partners during the conference about how to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.

Biden was unequivocal on the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - two separatist Georgian republics recognized by Russia following a five-day war with Georgia sparked by Tbilisi's invasion of South Ossetia.

"The United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states," he said. "We will not recognize a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances."

Under President George Bush, Washington was a staunch supporter of Georgia and Ukraine in their bids to join NATO, which was vehemently opposed by Moscow.

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