Russian FM: U.S. not to reject joint missile defense

Russian Foreign Minister warned Washington Thursday that U.S. disagreement to accept Russian offer to create joint missile defense system strengthen Moscow’s belief that the prospective American missile shield is directed against Russia, saying that current state relations are quite “alarming”.

Sergey Lavrov strongly urged the United States to embrace Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to jointly use a Russian-rented radar installation in Azerbaijan.

"If the United States rejects our initiative, we shall become firmer in our opinion that the underlying reason is not a threat from Iran," Lavrov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Putin made the proposal after months of bitter criticism of the U.S. missile defense plans. He dismissed U.S. claims that missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic were intended to counter a potential missile threat from Iran, describing them as a threat to Russia. He warned that he could respond by aiming nuclear missiles at U.S. allies in Europe.

Putin made the proposal to jointly use the huge Soviet-built radar station in northeastern Azerbaijan when he met with U.S. President George W. Bush earlier this month on the sidelines of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations in Germany.

Bush agreed to consider Moscow' proposal, but the U.S. administration made it clear it was not abandoning plans for the project in Poland and the Czech Republic - Cold War-era Soviet satellites that are now members of NATO.

The two leaders agreed to discuss the issue further at talks next month at the Bush family vacation home in the U.S. state of Maine.

Relations with Washington have deteriorated rapidly amid Moscow's criticism of U.S. missile defense plans and U.S. concerns about Kremlin democratic backsliding and strong-arming of ex-Soviet neighbors.

Lavrov said the current state of the U.S.-Russian relations was "alarming," and warned that Moscow would not accept lecturing from the United States.

"Any format of relations with the United States other than equal partnership will be unacceptable to us," he was quoted as saying.

However, he added on a conciliatory note that Moscow remains ready to improve relations with the United States if Washington shows more respect for its interests.

"We have no anti-American sentiments unlike some other countries," he said. "Nobody objects to the leadership of any country, provided it is prepared for this status and can cope with it. However, everybody should listen to each other, and such a leader must be involved in collective work."