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NATO pact on missile defence

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Urges Moscow to link its systems to the grid

Offensive on shield: Turkish demonstrators denounce NATO's planned missile defence shield, in Istanbul recently. Prime minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Ankara's reservations saying it should not be presented as a defence against any particular country, a reference to Iran. — PHOTO: AFP
Offensive on shield: Turkish demonstrators denounce NATO's planned missile defence shield, in Istanbul recently. Prime minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated Ankara's reservations saying it should not be presented as a defence against any particular country, a reference to Iran. — PHOTO: AFP

U.S. President Barack Obama and his NATO allies agreed to shield Europe's peoples from rogue rocket attacks with a screen of interceptor missiles, and to invite Russia to take part.

The deal commits NATO members to deploy a phalanx of anti-missile batteries to shoot down incoming missiles and urges Moscow to link its own defensive systems to the grid.

Winning agreement on the shield also gave the NATO leaders a boost as they prepared for the second day of their Lisbon summit on Saturday.

“For the first time, we have agreed to develop a missile defence capability that's strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations, as well as the United States,” said Mr. Obama at the summit.

Russia had been fiercely critical of earlier U.S. missile defence plans, seeing them as a direct threat to the credibility of its nuclear deterrent, and Moscow demanded that a previous blueprint be withdrawn.

But the 28 NATO powers hope President Dmitry Medvedev can be won over at the first such meeting between NATO and the Kremlin chief since Moscow waged a war in Georgia in 2008.

“Rather than being an issue for conflict, it is now an issue for cooperation,” said Ivo Daalder, U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expected Russia and the Allies to begin a joint study of how Russia could be included in the missile defence system, which would be a significant softening of Moscow's position.

Strategic concept

In a “strategic concept” setting priorities for the next decade, NATO agreed to “develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence.

“We will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners,” said the alliance statement.

Leaders were to discuss the plan in more detail over dinner.

Mr. Obama also won support from his European allies in his showdown with the U.S. Senate over the ratification of a key nuclear pact with Russia.

“The message that I've received since I arrived from my fellow leaders here at NATO could not be clearer: new START will strengthen our alliance and it will strengthen European security,” the U.S. leader told reporters. — AFP


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