Bush woos Russia on missile defence

Washington - American President George Bush, conceding he had more work to do to overcome Russia's strong objections to a planned missile shield, said on Monday that the proposed system was in Moscow's interest.

"It's in your interests to have a system that could prevent a future Iranian regime, for example, from launching a weapon. It's in Russia's security interests," he said on the sidelines of an annual US-Europe summit.

At an annual US-Europe summit, Bush said he had launched an aggressive diplomatic dialogue with Moscow and noted that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates had recently travelled there to mollify Russian objections.

"We have started a dialogue - as a result of Secretary Gates's visit - that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully present an opportunity to share with the Russians, so that they don't see us as an antagonistic force but see us as a friendly force," he said.

"Our intention, of course, is to have a defence system that prevents rogue regimes from holding Western Europe and/or America hostage. Evidently, the Russians view it differently," he said.

Bush said he had sent Gates at the suggestion of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the rotating presidencies of the EU and the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations and attended the summit here.

"Upon the advice of the chancellor, I asked Secretary Gates to go to Moscow, where he had a very constructive meeting with (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin. I called President Putin and asked him to see Secretary Gates, and that we would put forth an interesting information-sharing proposal.

"Our intention is to say to Russia that the system is something you ought to think about participating in," said Bush.

Bush discussed the missile defence plan on April 23, as Moscow rebuffed Gates in his attempt to soften opposition to Washington's plan for a missile defence shield in Europe, saying it threatens global security.

Putin has even said that the proposed deployment would increase the threat of mutual destruction

The US has proposed siting 10 missiles in Poland and a targeting radar in the Czech Republic by 2012 and has said they would be oriented toward ballistic missile threats from the south.

But Moscow's opposition to the US deployment is steadily hardening, fuelling East-West tensions already heightened over differences on independence for Kosovo, Putin's record on democracy, and Russian energy export policies.

On Thursday, Putin stunned Western capitals when he announced suspension of Moscow's participation in the Soviet-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which imposes strict limits on troop deployments across the continent.

Putin said this was in response to the planned US missile shield.

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