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Russia not to pressure Poland over missile shield
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Russia will not pressure Poland over the possible deployment of U.S. missile defense systems in eastern Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

"We will not exert pressure on Poland or on other participants" in the negotiations on the U.S. plan to build missile defense bases in Europe, Lavrov told a news conference after meeting his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski.

The United States is planning to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of its European missile shield.

Russia has fiercely objected to the plan, claiming it will pose a threat to its national security.

Moscow wants Warsaw to understand its concerns over the plan, Lavrov was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

The Russian foreign minister said he hoped Polish leaders will take into account "the interests of all European security," but he admitted Russia has "no veto power" on Poland's decisions.

Sikorski said the decision "will be taken by the United States and Poland."

"But we recognize the facts and the reality. Poland, unlike Russia, has no ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons. The anti-missile defense system will defend Europe against ballistic missiles' threats and we understand Russia's interest in this aspect," he said.

Sikorski also said Warsaw is ready to lift its veto on the launch of a new, broad cooperation agreement between Russia and the European Union (EU).

Poland blocked the start of negotiations on the new deal in November, citing a Russian ban on meat imports from Poland.

"I am very glad that the trade embargo is now history. I think this will allow us to unblock the talks in order to secure a mandate for contact on the Russian-EU agreement," Sikorski said.

The issue will be discussed during Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk's planned visit to Moscow next month, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency January 22, 2008)

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