Azerbaijan FM says it is ready to consider proposed US-Russian use of radar

Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mamedyanov said Friday that he was ready to consider proposed joint U.S.-Russian use of a radar facility in the country as part of a missile defense system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the proposal Thursday to U.S. President George W. Bush as an alternative to U.S. plans to deploy missile-defense elements in Eastern European countries, a plan to which Russia bitterly objects.

"At this time, Azerbaijan's position, which is supported by the United States and Russia, is that it's necessary to start consultations in a two- or three-sided format. I can say that Azerbaijan is ready for such consultations," the foreign minister said at a briefing.

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic along the Caspian Sea and borders Russia and Iran.

The United States says that missile defense elements it wants to place in Poland and the Czech Republic are aimed at intercepting possible missile attacks from Iran and North Korea.

Putin contends that putting the system in Eastern Europe would mean it could be used against Russia's missiles, thereby undermining the balance of power in Europe.

Putin said last week that Russia would aim its missiles at Europe for the first time since the end of the Cold War if the U.S. plan goes ahead.

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