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Iran poses no threat to Russia, top diplomats and military officials said Thursday as Moscow pressed its argument for the United States to abandon plans for a missile defense system in Europe.
Washington says putting missile defense components in the Czech Republic and Poland will help protect Europe against potential missile attacks from Iran.
An alarmed Russia, meanwhile, has proposed instead that Washington and Moscow jointly use a Russian-run radar system in Gabala, Azerbaijan, to monitor potential missile launches.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Russia sees no threat from Iran and added that the proposed defense system was likely intended to target Russia.
"Missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic will have no other target except Russian military bases in the European part of the country," he told reporters. "We are confident that there is, and there will be no, any potential threat from Iran in the near future.
"We are getting back to the era which we thought was left behind; a weapons build-up, if not an arms race," he said.
Speaking at the same briefing, the chief of Russia's general staff voiced similar sentiments.
"A missile threat from Iran looks hypothetical, while the United States suggests establishing a major missile defense system already now, although there is no need for this whatsoever," Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said.
Russia is a close ally of Iran, and is building that nation's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr - a project that concerns the United States and other Western nations, which fear Tehran could use it to advance efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, warned that if Washington refused to accept the Russian proposal of a joint missile defense, Moscow's belief that the prospective American missile shield is directed against Russia would be strengthened.