Moscow protests at Star Wars plan for UK

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The Independent Online

The Russian government has angrily protested about a secret deal - revealed last week by The Independent on Sunday - to site US missiles in Britain as part of the "son of Star Wars" programme.

The Russian government has angrily protested about a secret deal - revealed last week by The Independent on Sunday - to site US missiles in Britain as part of the "son of Star Wars" programme.

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned that the move would "represent a disturbing new step" in international relations and posed a "possible threat to the security of Russia".

The Foreign Ministry also hinted heavily that siting US missiles in Britain or elsewhere in Europe could lead to a new arms race with the US - a threat that will alarm ministers and opponents of the proposal.

Moscow's criticisms came after the IoS disclosed that Tony Blair has privately given President George Bush an agreement in principle to host interceptors in Britain as part of the US "ballistic missile defence" system.

The true extent of Britain's deepening co-operation with the Pentagon on bringing the system to the UK was revealed in an official document on missile defence released by the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, last week.

It confirms that detailed studies into how the "son of Star Wars" weapons system would extend to cover Britain have begun. They include how and where US missiles will be sited and how effective they would be in shooting down an enemy's ballistic missiles.

These further disclosures led Nicholas Soames, the Shadow Defence Secretary, to demand in the Commons last week that Mr Hoon "come clean" about the Government's thinking. As ministers continued to insist no formal decision had been taken, Mr Soames claimed the Government had a history of taking sensitive military decisions in secret without informing MPs.

The "son of Star Wars" agreement - signed in June last year by the MoD's chief scientist, Professor Roy Anderson, and the head of the US Missile Defence Agency, Lieutenant-General Henry Obering - confirms the MoD is working on the "development and analysis of options for the extension of the US system to make missile defence capabilities available to the UK".

It also reveals that the MoD is investigating whether shooting down nuclear-armed, biological or chemical weapons over the UK could contaminate Britain or other parts of northern Europe with fallout.

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