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Bush optimistic about missile defense talks with Russia
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US President George W. Bush said Thursday he is "cautiously optimistic" about the missile defense talks with Russia and reiterated the missile defense is not aimed at Russia.

"The missile systems, defense systems, would not be aimed at Russia; they would be aimed at nations that would ... try to hold the free world hostage with a nuclear weapon," Bush said in an interview with Radio Farda, a US-funded Farsi language radio.

"And so it's I'm optimistic. I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't know whether we can find common ground. But we are trying to find common ground, and that's the first step, is to make the attempt," Bush said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Moscow last week and their talks with the Russian side yielded no breakthrough. However, Rice and Gates said the talks with Russia were "constructive".

The United States plans to base missile interceptors in Poland and radar units in the Czech Republic as part of a project to extend the missile defense system to Europe. Russia has voiced opposition over the plan and said the plan poses threat to its strategic interests.

The United States has claimed the missile defense system is aimed at states and groups in the Middle East that are seeking weapons of mass destruction, not against Russia.

(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2008)

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