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Russia ready to drop Iskander plans if U.S. scraps missile shield


MOSCOW, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian defense minister reiterated on Tuesday that Moscow would not place Iskander missiles on the EU's doorstep if Washington abandoned its plans to deploy missile defenses in Central Europe.

"If the deployment [of U.S. missile defense elements] is suspended, we will not start the retaliatory measures we planned," Anatoly Serdyukov said.

Serdyukov was speaking after a Moscow meeting with his German counterpart, Franz Josef Jung, to discuss issues of bilateral military cooperation, including the rail and air transit of military cargo for German troops in Afghanistan through Russia.

"We are ready to continue discussions on this [missile defense] issue, including in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council," the minister added.

Washington has agreed with Warsaw and Prague on 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.

Russia has consistently opposed the missile shield as a threat to its national security and President Dmitry Medvedev threatened in November to deploy Iskander-M missiles in the country's westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania, if the shield was put into operation.

Top Russian officials have repeatedly expressed hope that U.S. President Barack Obama will not follow through with his predecessor's missile defense plans.

The Kremlin denied on Tuesday media reports claiming that a letter sent by Obama to Medvedev contained new missile defense proposals. The reports cited unnamed sources as saying the U.S. president had told his Russian counterpart that Russian help in resolving the issue of Iran's nuclear program would make Washington's plans for a missile shield in Central Europe unnecessary.

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