MOSCOW, March 6 (UPI) -- German Chancellor and rotating EU President Angela Merkel has called on NATO to defuse growing Russian tension about U.S. missile shields in Europe.
Merkel made the remarks to the Financial Times Monday after the head of Russia's strategic bomber force said Russian bombers could easily knock out the installations, which the Bush administration is so far planning to build in Poland and Czech Republic.
"NATO is the best place for discussion of this issue," Merkel said. "It is better to have more discussion on this issue rather than less."
Moscow has rejected Washington's claims the shields are designed to protect against missile attacks by North Korea and Iran, and threatened to withdraw from from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which outlawed an entire class of medium-range weapons if Washington goes ahead with construction.
Meanwhile, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek dismissed European objections to the plan.
"As for the 18 EU member states who host U.S. military bases, it is not up to them to comment on the existence of such a presence in the Czech Republic," Topolanek told reporters.