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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO to Press Lavrov On U.S. Missile Shield

BRUSSELS -- The United States will make a new pitch to Russia at NATO talks in Oslo on Thursday over its planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, but diplomats doubt there will be any movement from Moscow soon.

NATO allies will seek to convince visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Moscow should back an independence plan for Serbia's Kosovo province. The two-day talks will also review NATO efforts to defeat Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from other NATO states will meet Lavrov three days after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates failed during a trip to Moscow to convince Russia that the shield did not threaten its security.

"We'll continue to try to reassure the Russians as well as European publics that might have questions about missile defense," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

Washington angered Moscow and unnerved some allies with its plan to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic from 2012 to help shield the United States from what it sees as possible attacks by countries such as Iran and North Korea.

It has since tried to allay Russian objections to the shield by offering to cooperate with Moscow, for example by sharing data from early warning systems and conducting joint exercises.

Gates spoke of progress at the talks, but Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow had no interest in joining a project it felt had already been predetermined in Washington. Alliance officials played down hopes of a breakthrough in Oslo.

"It's too early. The Russians need more time to look at the U.S. offer, which is very technical," said one NATO diplomat, who asked not to be identified.

But while Moscow has yet to be persuaded, NATO allies such as Germany -- where left-wingers in the ruling coalition have raised fears of a new arms race -- appear more satisfied after detailed presentations of the plan in the 26-nation alliance.

"It was accepted that the United States, of course, has the right to develop such a system for itself," one senior alliance diplomat said.

NATO Deputy Secretary-General Martin Erdmann, however, was cautious. "I would not go as far as saying there is a consensus. The discussion has just started," he told a news briefing.