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Medvedev denies Iran-missile shield tradeoff with U.S. - 2


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MADRID, March 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's president denied on Tuesday media reports claiming that Washington had pledged to drop its Central European missile shield plans if Moscow helped resolve Iran's controversial nuclear program.

A number of media outlets, including the New York Times and Russian business daily Kommersant, reported on Monday that a letter sent by U.S. President Barack Obama to Dmitry Medvedev had stated that the U.S. was ready to give up its plans to deploy missile shield elements in Central Europe in exchange for Russia's assistance on the Iranian nuclear program.

"We are in correspondence, but no tradeoffs have been discussed, I assure you," Medvedev told a news conference in Madrid.

Iran's controversial nuclear program was cited by the U.S. as one of the reasons behind its plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. The missile shield has been strongly opposed by Russia, which views it as a threat to its national security. The dispute has strained relations between the former Cold War rivals, already tense over a host of other differences.

The United States and other Western nations suspect Tehran of secretly seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is purely aimed at generating electricity. However, unlike his predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama has stated a preference for diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute.

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

Medvedev said however on Tuesday that he viewed the United States' readiness to address the missile defense problems as a positive sign.

"If the new U.S. administration shows common sense in this regard and proposes a new setup, one which would suit all Europeans, as well as the U.S. itself, and which would, needless to say, also be acceptable to our country, we'd be ready to discuss it," he said.

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