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U.S. tries to calm Russian fears about missiles

  • Story Highlights
  • America plans to install interceptor missiles in eastern Europe, U.S. officials said
  • Bush says missile defense system is to be set up in Poland, Czech Republic
  • President Vladimir Putin proposes putting system in more Russia-friendly countries
  • U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls meetings "constructive and useful"
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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- The United States is trying to allay Russian fears about American plans to install interceptor missiles in eastern Europe, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meet their Russian counterparts.

The Bush administration says the missile defense system that is to be set up in Poland and the Czech Republic is designed to defend against attacks -- not from Russia but from "rogue states."

The system would not be made operational until Iran test-fires a missile that could threaten Europe, the United States has told Russia. In addition, the United States is offering to allow Russian monitors at the missile sites, and to negotiate limits to the system over time.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said they would give the Russians a report containing specifics of the U.S. proposals Tuesday night. To date, these have been discussed in general terms.

"The full range of what we are prepared to offer to discuss is really just now being put down on paper," Gates said.

"They feel the need to study them in more detail," he said. "I would expect to hear back reasonably quickly."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the proposals will be given to President Vladimir Putin as soon as details are in place.

Putin, who leaves office this spring, proposed in July during a visit with Bush at Kennebunkport, Maine, that the missile defense system be based in countries more friendly to Russia, such as Azerbaijan, or possibly Iraq.

The Russians also disagree with provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START. Video Watch Russian defense minister cut through diplo-speak »

Although other issues were discussed at the meetings, talks focused on the missile defense system, officials said.

"Work should be pursued," Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said at the news conference. "But, as for now, I can say our positions have not changed."

Lavrov said, "We registered steady progress, especially in implementation of initiatives put forward by the two presidents. This has to do with combating nuclear terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as enhancing the nonproliferation regimes, and the use of peaceful nuclear energy on a safe and on a sustainable basis."

The other issues included economic trade and investments; Kosovo, whose declaration of independence is opposed by Russia, and Afghanistan. Rice called the meetings "constructive and useful."

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"As you know, we have differences about ways and means to move forward, and today we have discussed this at length," she said. "We're very serious about cooperation."

Rice and Gates arrived in Moscow Sunday. They met with Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev Monday, and with their Russian counterparts Tuesday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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