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    NATO no security threat in U.S. missile shield plans - official

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    BRUSSELS, April 19 (RIA Novosti) - NATO allies do not see negative consequences in U.S. plans to place elements of a missile defense system in Central Europe, the NATO secretary general said Thursday.

    In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns.

    The Russia-NATO Council met in Brussels Thursday to consider U.S. plans that Moscow blasted earlier as a threat to national security and an attempt to destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

    Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said after the meeting that the NATO allies that the placement of the U.S. missile shield will not change the strategic balance because Washington proposes to deploy only ten missile interceptors.

    He said that the principle of shared security responsibility must be considered during the implementation of the plan, and the U.S. system must compliment the European theater missile defense system that NATO is planning to build by 2010.

    But Russia's permanent representative to NATO said Thursday U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Central Europe will change the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

    "Of course, Russia believes this is a change in the strategic balance of forces in our common region," Konstantin Totsky told journalists in Brussels.

    The Russian official said Moscow and Brussels have serious differences in the assessment of missile threats from the Middle East, particularly from Iran.

    Totsky said Russia was ready for dialogue but stressed that the country could not agree to a unilateral decision "in such a strategically important sphere as deployment of American elements of strategic potential in Europe."

    He said he hoped American experts would prove to Russia the necessity of deploying missile defense elements in Europe.

    Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said Tuesday that in order to ease Kremlin's concerns, Washington was ready to allow Russian experts to inspect the likely missile site in Poland to show that it posed no threat to Moscow.

    The NATO secretary general told journalists that the missile shield issue will be further discussed at an informal meeting of Russia-NATO Council's foreign ministers in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

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