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    Russia can offer low-cost response to U.S. missile system

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    Russia possesses the relatively inexpensive technical capability to offer an appropriate response to U.S. missile defense deployment in Europe, the foreign minister told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

    GENEVA, February 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia possesses the relatively inexpensive technical capability to offer an appropriate response to U.S. missile defense deployment in Europe, the foreign minister told a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

    Russia has been unnerved by NATO's ongoing expansion and Washington's plans to deploy missile defense bases in Central Europe, which it says are needed to deter possible strikes from Iran and other "rogue states."

    "When we are told that the [U.S.] third missile deployment area is not aimed against Russia, we have to be guided not by [stated] intentions, but facts, real potential... I can assure you that our response will not cost as much. We have the technical capability for an appropriate response that will not be a crippling burden on Russia's economy, but obviously it is better to avoid this," Sergei Lavrov said.

    He said Iran has no long-range missiles and is unlikely to acquire them in the foreseeable future, adding that even if Tehran wanted to, Iran would be unable to create such missiles in less than a decade.

    He described Western efforts to repulse a non-existent threat as excessive.

    The minister said Moscow had made an unofficial proposal to work out a new multilateral agreement, based on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and including obligations to eliminate all intermediate and shorter range missiles.

    He said Russia advocated the creation of open and transparent collective security systems to achieve "a new equilibrium" in the world after the end of the Cold War.

    He also said global strategic stability cannot remain the exclusive domain of Russian-U.S. relations, although the two countries would continue to play a lead role there.

    Lavrov said Russia and the United States have yet to reach agreement on a new treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1).

    "We still have some time, but time is running out," he said.

    The U.S. administration is planning to construct a base for 10 two-stage missile interceptors in Poland, modify its X-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and relocate it to the Czech Republic, and to deploy a new forward-based radar to an unspecified location.

    The 2008-2013 budget for the project is estimated at about $4.8 billion.

    In his 2008 FY Budget proposal, Bush asked Congress to approve the allocation of $310 million for the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in Europe, but lawmakers cut the amount by 27% to $225 million.

    Earlier this month, Tehran successfully launched the Explorer-1 research rocket, which is reportedly capable of carrying a satellite into orbit, and unveiled the country's first domestically built satellite, named Omid, or Hope. However, it gave assurances that the country's achievements in space technology and research pose no threat to global peace and stability.

    Iran is currently involved in a long-running dispute with the West over its controversial uranium enrichment program, with two sets of UN sanctions against Tehran in effect.

    The U.S. and its allies fear that both programs may serve as a cover for the development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

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