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US tries again to win Russia's consent to missile shield plans
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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will try to seek cooperation with Russia during their visit to the country on March 17-18.

The talk is likely to focus on a planned US missile shield at a time of rising tension between the two countries over the issue.

The White House said that the agenda will cover such issues as missile defense, post-START arrangements and other bilateral strategic issues.

The visit was arranged a few days after Washington concluded separate talks with Poland and the Czech Republic over the controversial missile shield, and reportedly made some progress in pushing through its missile defense system plans in Europe.

The United States plans to base radar units in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in Poland as part of its attempts to extend the missile defense system to Europe.

Russia strongly opposes the plan, saying it poses a threat to its security. The United States says the system is aimed at states and groups in the Middle East that are seeking weapons of mass destruction, not against Russia.

When Rice and Gates were in Moscow last October for talks with their Russian counterparts, both sides failed to narrow their differences on missile defense, the thorniest issue that has worsened their bilateral relations.

The United States, nevertheless, pushed ahead with its plan, continuing talks with the other two key parties involved Poland and the Czech Republic.

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