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Russia hints at joining in on US missile defence

MOSCOW, Jan 14 (AFP) - Russia could collaborate with the United States in the building of a missile defence system under certain conditions, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday.

"Theoretically, we do not rule out cooperating with the United States, under certain conditions, in certain precise areas of such a system, if ever it is created," Ivanov said, as quoted by the Interfax news agency.

Washington has on several occasions held out the prospect of Russia joining in the work of constructing a missile defence shield -- which Russia in principle opposes -- and the US ambassador to Moscow Alexander Vershbow, in a recent interview, insisted that his country was "serious" about the offer.

He noted, in the interview with Interfax conducted on December 30 but published last Wednesday, that Russia has "advanced technology, such as the S-300 and S-400 anti-air missiles which could be developed into an anti-ballistic missile capability," and said that areas of possible cooperation were under consideration.

Ivanov insisted however that the Russian participation "would depend on a series of conditions, in particular that it should comply with the requirements of our own security and of our economic interests."

He reaffirmed Russia's long-standing view, stated by President Vladimir Putin in December 2001, that the US decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty was "a mistake."

Last Thursday, Moscow said it was awaiting a reply from the United States to a proposal on a draft of a new strategic stability agreement to replace the abandoned ABM treaty.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said however that he was unaware of the proposal, which Moscow said would be a "new political missile defense agreement."

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