NATO, Russia say still no agreement on missiles

December 8, 2011 - 7:41 AM
Belgium NATO Foreign Ministers

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. NATO's foreign ministers, in a two-day meeting, will review progress in Afghanistan, plans for a missile defense system, and troubles in Kosovo. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Russia and NATO remain deadlocked on a long-running dispute over the alliance's plan for a missile shield for Europe, officials said Thursday, and Russia warned that time was running out for an agreement.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said "differences remain" over the plans, but rejected Russia's complaints that the alliance was not listening to Moscow's concerns that the missile defense system could be used against it.

NATO and the United States say the planned missile defense program is meant to protect Europe from threats in the Middle East.

"We listen and we have listened today ... we take Russian concerns seriously," Fogh Rasmussen said after a meeting of NATO's 28 foreign ministers with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

Fogh Rasmussen said he hoped for an initial deal on the missile issue with Russia by the time of NATO's next summit in Chicago in May, which the Russian president is also due to attend.

Lavrov did not back down, saying NATO was not willing to compromise.

"Unfortunately our partners are not yet ready for cooperation on missile defense," he said.

Moscow needed "clear guarantees" that the missile shield would not be targeted against its own nuclear deterrent, he said.

Russia has insisted on a treaty that would be binding on the United States and its allies, guaranteeing that the anti-missile system would in no way threaten Russia's own ballistic missiles. The U.S. has said it's willing to adopt a nonbinding written agreement, but that a treaty is unworkable.

"We stand ready for dialogue provided that legitimate concerns of all parties are taken into consideration," Lavrov said.

"We can find a mutually beneficial solution, we still have some time but time is running out every day."

A Russian military official said Wednesday that the country is preparing to deploy S-400 surface-to-air missiles in Kaliningrad, the western exclave that borders Poland and Lithuania, to be aimed at U.S. and NATO missile defense sites.