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Caucasus in Dark on Radar Proposal

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan said Friday that Washington had not yet asked them to host a controversial anti-missile shield, a move that would be certain to anger Russia.

The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Thursday that Washington might be interested in locating a radar system in an unspecified country in the Caucasus as part of the Missile Defense System it plans to deploy in Central Europe.

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering said having a radar system in the Caucasus would be "useful, but not essential." He did not specify a country.

Washington says it wants the system, consisting of radar stations and batteries of interceptor missiles, to shoot down hostile rockets launched by terrorists or "rogue states."

Moscow believes the shield threatens its national security and has promised to counter it with existing and future weapons.

"We did not get such a proposal yet," said Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili. The Azeri and Armenian foreign ministries made similar statements.

Poland and the Czech Republic have already indicated that they would be in favor of hosting part of a shield network. A similar sentiment may prove popular in Georgia, where anti-Russia feelings run high and the government is keen to draw closer to the West.

"I think any kind of Georgia's integration into European structures, including the military, would be good for our country," said Nika Rurua, deputy head of the parliamentary defense and security committee.

The Kremlin declined to comment on Obering's remarks, but the military played down their significance.

"We have everything needed to adequately respond to all these deployments," national news agencies quoted Air Force commander General Vladimir Mikhailov as saying. "They have lots of cash; let them spend it."

Mikhailov said Russia's answer to the U.S. idea was the S-400, the latest generation of Russian air defense missiles, which has a range of 400 kilometers.


(The Moscow Times 05.iii.07)

 
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