Kislyak, Top Missile Negotiator, Appointed Ambassador to U.S.

APKislyak
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, Russia's point man in the heated dispute over U.S. missile shields, will be Russia's new ambassador to Washington.

Kislyak also has led Russia's delegation of the six nations that are seeking resolution to tensions over Iran's alleged intentions to develop nuclear weapons.

The announcement was made Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry.

Kislyak will replace Ambassador Yury Ushakov, who last month was appointed Cabinet deputy head in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government.

Kislyak said Tuesday that he plans to take up his post in the coming months.

"Like any diplomat, I have to take a series of necessary steps in order to assume my post," Kislyak said, RIA-Novosti reported. "I hope this happens in the coming months."

By leading talks with the United States over missile defense, Kislyak has been at the center of one of the most divisive issues between Moscow and Washington in the post-Soviet era. Russia vehemently opposes U.S. plans to place elements of a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, and has threatened an unspecified military response if the plans go through.

Russia claims that the system would undermine its own missile capability, but Washington says the system is aimed only at intercepting possible missile attacks by rogue countries such as Iran.

U.S.-Russian relations have been strained by other issues as well. Russia deeply resents the push by the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO, while both countries' aspirations are backed by the United States. The United States also backed the independence of Kosovo, while Russia supports Serbia's contention that it should have remained part of Serbia.

AP, Reuters, MT