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Bush says 'cautiously optimistic' over Russia-U.S. missile talks

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The U.S president said he hoped an agreement could be reached between Russia and the United States on Washington's missile defense plans for Central Europe.
WASHINGTON, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S president said he hoped an agreement could be reached between Russia and the United States on Washington's missile defense plans for Central Europe.

"I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't know whether we can find common ground, but we're trying to find common ground. And the first step is to make the attempt," George W. Bush said in an interview with Radio Farda, a Persian language radio station based in Prague and Washington.

Bush reiterated that the missile defense elements planned to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic, which Moscow views as a threat to its own security, "would not be aimed at Russia," but were designed to counter possible attacks from 'rogue states' such as Iran.

"We intend to move forward with the Czech Republic and Poland for the good of NATO. Obviously it'd make life easier if the Russians and the United States cooperated in such a missile defense," he said.

Earlier this week, the Russian and U.S. foreign and defense ministers discussed the issue in Moscow, but failed to reach an agreement.

The U.S. proposed a series of confidence building measures to Russia, in particular allowing Moscow to monitor the U.S. missile defense bases in Central Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the new proposals "useful and important." He also said Moscow had managed to make the Americans "acknowledge that our concerns are not unfounded."

Russia had earlier proposed its radar stations at Gabala in Azerbaijan, and Armavir in south Russia, as alternatives to the U.S. plans.

In the interview with Radio Farda, Bush also said he "supports the Russian proposal to provide Iran with enriched uranium to go into a civilian nuclear-power plant." Russia is currently building Iran's first nuclear power plant in Bushehr, in southern Iran.

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