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Iran's Missile Tests Negate US Defense Shield Plans, Says Russia

Russia said Friday, July 11 that Iran's ongoing missile tests prove the uselessness of US plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe because of their short range. Negotiations on the shield, however, continue.

Pictures of the Iranian television network Al-Alam shows the launch of the upgraded version of the Iranian Shahab-3 missile in southern Iran, 09 July 2008.

Russia says that Iran's missile tests show how useless a US defense shield would be

The tests "confirm what we have been saying, that under its current parameters the plan to build a US missile defense system in Europe is not needed to monitor or respond to such missiles," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

Iran conducted missile tests on Wednesday and Thursday, firing medium-and long-range missiles during exercises in the Gulf.

"The tests only show that Iran now has rockets that reach up to 2,000 kilometers," Lavrov said.

Russia views as a threat to its security US plans to site elements of a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, but Washington says the shield is necessary to defend against "rogue states."

"We are certain that talk of a missile threat emanating from Iran is an invented motive for deploying a missile shield in Europe," Lavrov said after talks with Jordan's Foreign Minister Salaheddin Bashir.

Bashir was in Moscow to discuss preparations for a Middle East Peace Conference to be held in the capital, and together the foreign ministers called for restraint and negotiation in dealings with Iran.

"We are in favor of any problems linked to Iran being resolved through negotiations, political and diplomatic methods," Lavrov said. "The threats voiced periodically that 'force will be used' ... that will not work."

Threat of attack remains

Iran's revolutionary Guard fired the shahab-3 long -range missile in southern Iran, 09 July 2008.

Iran's tests have increased tensions

The United States has refused to rule out a military attack on Iran believing along with some European capitals that Tehran's civilian atomic energy program, developed with help from Russia, is a cover for ambitions to build nuclear weapons.

Russia itself has warned of a possible military response following the Tuesday's signing of the radar agreement in Prague by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev a day later threatened countermeasures if Washington goes ahead and builds the disputed system

Moscow says its own security is threatened by the proposed missile defense facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Czech Republic angered at remarks

The Czech defense ministry on Thursday slammed what it called "inappropriate rhetoric" from Russia over Prague's decision to host part of the US anti-missile defense shield.

Czech demonstrators shout slogans against a disputed missile defense radar system during a march through downtown Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, July 8, 2008.

Czechs have taken to the street to protest the shield

"The Czech side...expressed its disquiet at the continued inappropriate rhetoric of the Russian Federation towards the Czech Republic and threats from some Russian officials in this sense," the ministry said in a statement.

It said the Russian statements had been "perceived in the Czech Republic as an infringement on Czech internal affairs."

Meanwhile, the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, General Henry Obering, used his first visit at the site where the radar is to be deployed, to reassure hostile locals.

"We want to cause the absolute minimum disruption, we want to work closely with the community," Obering told more than a dozen local politicians during a visit to the former Soviet base at Brdy, southwest of Prague. "Once we have the radar in operation, people will not be aware of it."

Most locals living near the radar site are resolutely opposed to the US facility, as shown by a series of referendums held last year in around 20 nearby villages.

Nationwide, 68 percent of Czech are against the US base, according to a survey by the CVVM agency published at the start of July.

Polish president to support tough stance

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk

Tusk has been playing hardball with the US

Meanwhile in Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that President Lech Kaczynski was ready to support the country's tough stance on anti-missile shield talks with the US.

This was despite Kaczynski's earlier qualms that bargaining too hard would hurt Polish-US relations, Tusk told the Polish Press Agency.

"I have the impression that after hearing my arguments and after familiarizing the president with the details and conditions of the negotiations, the president pledged his readiness to support (the talks,)" Tusk said.

The two politicians had met for over two hours Wednesday amid reports of negotiations between Warsaw and Washington reaching deadlock and the US looking for another host, possibly Lithuania.

Poland wants a big military aid package in exchange for US rights to put 10 interceptor missiles on its soil.

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