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    Non-nuclear ballistic missiles could trigger crisis - Putin

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the use of ballistic missiles with conventional warheads could provoke a retaliatory strike from nuclear powers.

    MOSCOW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that the use of ballistic missiles with conventional warheads could provoke a retaliatory strike from nuclear powers.

    "You do not have to be an expert to realize that if these [ballistic missiles] are used, other countries could assume that an attack has been launched against them," Putin told a Civil G8 2006 forum in Moscow. "Nobody knows whether these missiles are nuclear or conventional, but the response takes only several minutes, and can occur automatically."

    Putin also expressed concern about the slow pace of talks on strategic offensive weapons and the militarization of space.

    "It is a serious problem, maybe the most urgent problem," he said. "We must know, talk about it, but it has been stonewalled."

    Addressing a UN Disarmament Conference session in June, Leonid Skotnikov, Russia's permanent representative to the UN Offices in Geneva, called for the reinstatement of the UN Committee for Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space, whose operations were suspended in 1994.

    Skotnikov reaffirmed that Russia had no intention of deploying weapons in outer space without provocation. He said space was arms-free now, but warned that this may be about to change, as the United States was set to build a national anti-missile defense shield. President George W. Bush started a program to build the shield in 2001 that includes the use of space-based anti-missile weapons.

    The president also criticized Tuesday proposals to use low-yield nuclear devices for pinpoint strikes at designated targets, such as terrorist bases.

    "But who is to decide where the low-yield capability ends and where the medium- and high-yield [capability] starts?" Putin asked. "This is very dangerous."

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