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    Ukraine engaged in U.S. missile defense efforts - DoD

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    The Bush administration has once again cited Ukraine on a list of 15 countries cooperating with the U.S. on its national missile defense system, the Department of Defense said Thursday.

    WASHINGTON, April 12 (RIA Novosti) - The Bush administration has once again cited Ukraine on a list of 15 countries cooperating with the U.S. on its national missile defense system, the Department of Defense said Thursday.

    "Today, 15 countries (including nine in NATO alone) are engaged in missile defense efforts of some kind, whether by hosting key facilities or assets on their territory or actively discussing this possibility, pursuing R&D programs, signing cooperative agreements with the U.S., or maintaining capabilities," Brian R. Green, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategic capabilities, told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

    He also said that in addition to the U.S., "the list includes Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Israel, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, and the U.K.," adding that Russia "clearly believes in the value of missile defense as it continues to maintain a missile defense system around its major population center, Moscow, and has developed defenses against shorter-range missiles."

    Another senior Defense Department official said the United States must continue development of its missile defense program.

    Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said the U.S. will launch three missile-defense satellites, in April and November.

    Obering said March 1 that the U.S. would like to place elements of its missile defense system in the South Caucasus, but did not specify which of the three former Soviet countries it would choose - Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia - with the latter being anxious to join NATO.

    The statement echoed U.S. plans revealed in January to deploy elements of its missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns.

    Russia, which has been anxious about NATO bases that have appeared in former Communist-bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics, has blasted the plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Central Europe as a national security threat and a destabilizing factor for Europe.

    Moscow said it will have to develop an adequate response to the possible missile shield deployment in the Caucasus.

    But Jonathan Henik, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan, reaffirmed Tuesday that the U.S. had not been considering placing elements of its missile defense system in the South Caucasus.

    Azerbaijan also said Washington had not yet approached it with any proposals.

    The Russia-NATO Council is expected to consider the U.S. missile defense plans April 19, diplomatic sources in Brussels said in March.

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