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Germany

German foreign minister calls for NATO-Russia missile defense system

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has spoken in favor of a NATO-Russia missile defense system ahead of a meeting in Moscow. Westerwelle is to travel on to Lithuania and Belarus later this week.

Westerwelle and Lavrov

Lavrov, right, welcomed Westerwelle to Moscow

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle kicked off a three-day tour of former Soviet republics in Moscow on Monday, where he called for a joint NATO-Russia missile defense system to be put in place.

Westerwelle's remarks came ahead of a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

In October, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to try and find common ground ahead of a NATO summit in Lisbon later this month.

Medvedev announced he would attend the summit and said he was open to cooperating with NATO on a missile defense system, but Russia was still wary of the idea.

Historic visit

After spending a day in Moscow, Westerwelle is scheduled to continue on to Lithuania and Belarus. Westerwelle's trip to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, is to be the first of its kind by a German foreign minister in 15 years.

A person casts a ballot

Westerwelle called for 'free and fair elections' in Belarus

Westerwelle is scheduled to meet with the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994.

Presidential elections are scheduled to be held in Belarus in December, and before departing from Germany for the region, Foreign Minister Westerwelle called on the Belarusian authorities to ensure that the polls were "free and fair."

Author: Matt Zuvela (dapd, dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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