Russia rejects US missile claims




Russia reacted angrily on Thursday to allegations from Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, that it was aiding proliferation of missile technology.
The sharp exchanges between Moscow and Washington suggest a worsening climate for talks on US missile defence plans, despite a Russian promise on Monday of a "constructive" approach.
Mr Rumsfeld should produce "incontrovertible proof" of his claims, said Valery Manilov, a senior Russian general. Russia also rejected fresh US media reports of shipments of tactical nuclear missiles into Kaliningrad, its Baltic enclave. Igor Sergeyev, the Russian defence minister, called the renewed claims "absolute and complete nonsense".
Large military exercises by Russia this week may have been meant to signal the national mood. Japan claimed that Russian aircraft had twice violated its airspace.
Missile defence is likely to dominate the agenda when Igor Ivanov, Russian foreign minister, meets Colin Powell, US secretary of state, in Cairo on February 24.
Russia strongly opposes the planned US system, which would shoot down incoming missiles, claiming it would violate the anti-ballistic missile treaty signed in 1972. Analysts say Russia fears mainly the build-up in China's nuclear arsenal that would probably follow.
Mr Rumsfeld said it was "misplaced" for Russia to oppose US defence plans and at the same time export missile technology. Russia was "part of the problem", he said. It was "an active proliferator... selling and assisting countries like Iran, North Korea and India and other countries with these technologies which are threatening other people including the United States".
Leonid Ivashov, a Russian official, replied: "Russia is irreproachable in fulfilling its international obligations, including those within the regime of non-proliferation of missile technologies." However, Moscow makes no secret of its desire for closer relations with countries the US ranks as strategic threats. President Mohammad Khatami of Iran will be visiting on March 12-15.
The Washington Times said on Thursday that US spy satellites had established the exact location of a shipment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons allegedly sent to Kaliningrad in June.