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Russian ire over U.S. missiles in Romania

MOSCOW, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Russia says it is concerned about Romania's decision to host American missile interceptors and other military infrastructure as part of a U.S. plan to protect Europe.

Romania swiftly defended the move saying it aimed to shield against a current or emerging ballistic threat from Iran, adding that the decision was endorsed by the country's top military body.

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News of the deployment, however, sparked ire from Russia, where Sergey Lavrov, the country's foreign minister, demanded "exhaustive explanations from Washington," saying that the United States had not fulfilled its promise of consulting the Kremlin on developments in the missile defense system.

"How can we stay calm when alien military infrastructure, U.S. military infrastructure, has come to the Black Sea area?" Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's permanent representative to NATO, asked on Russian television.

While the general outlines of the defense shield plan were made known months ago, Russian officials say they were taken aback by the news of Romania's role.

The Romanian deployment is part of a revamped U.S. missile defense approach taken by President Barack Obama after he pulled the plug on a plan by the previous administration to set up a radar site and interceptor rockets in the Czech Republic and Poland.

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Russia had fiercely opposed that deployment, saying the shield could be used to undermine its nuclear deterrent. The Kremlin threatened to deploy Iskander missiles near Poland's border if it went ahead.

What's more, news of the deployment in Romania comes at a sensitive moment as Moscow and Washington close in on negotiations to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new deal.

Sergei Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister, has warned that the Romanian move may complicate the talks.

"It is impossible to talk seriously about a reduction of nuclear capabilities when a nuclear power is working to deploy defensive systems against nuclear warheads possessed by other countries."

Russian analysts say the SM-3 interceptors planned for Romania pose no threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent. "But that might change when a second generation of interceptors is put in place in 2018, a possibility that makes Moscow wary because the United States is under no obligation to share data about the system," said The New York Times quoting Sergei Rogov, director of the U.S. and Canada Studies in Moscow.

The missile interceptors are set to be deployed in Romania by 2015.

NATO's head, meantime, has urged the alliance to develop closer ties with China, India, Pakistan and Russia, and become a consultation forum on global security.

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