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U.S. sees Russia cooperating on missile defence
By Adam Entous

Sssia, June 1 (Reuters) - The Bush administration sees Russia expanding cooperation with -- and potentially joining -- its proposed missile defence system, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

In a joint statement after talks in St Petersburg, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin said they planned to "advance concrete projects in the area of missile defence which will help deepen relations between the United States and Russia."

The United States formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty last June, clearing the way for what Bush called an aggressive push to build missile defences against "terrorists" and "rogue" states.

The U.S. president's decision to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty was initially opposed by Russia, China and European nations who argued it could undermine nuclear deterrence and spur an arms race, but criticism has since died down.

A U.S. official said Russia could eventually help the United States in the development of software and other systems, though that may be well down the road.

"We're getting to the point where there's mutual interest in looking for concrete ways they (Russia) can cooperate on missile defence," the official said.

The official said the Bush administration "certainly does not rule out" letting Russia eventually join its missile defence shield, but added: "That would certainly require future work and discussions."

Russia's evolving position follows the Canadian government's decision on Thursday to hold talks with the United States on joining its missile defence shield after months of indecision and stormy bilateral relations.

Bush ordered the military in December to begin deploying a national missile defence system with land- and sea-based interceptor rockets to be operational starting in 2004.

Defence officials say they planned to deploy 10 ground-based interceptors in 2004 and an additional 10 ground interceptors in 2005. The ground interceptors would protect U.S. targets against long-range attack.

Other interceptors for use against shorter-range missiles would be deployed aboard U.S. warships from 2004 and could help defend allies in other regions of the world, officials said.

Bush has stressed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology have sharply increased the need for such a defence against attack from "rogue states," especially since the September 11 attacks.

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