Russia and Nato hail decision as victory for peace

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The Independent Online

Nato countries and Russia yesterday reacted with relief to President Bill Clinton's decision to defer a decision on proceeding with the controversial US missile defence shield.

Nato countries and Russia yesterday reacted with relief to President Bill Clinton's decision to defer a decision on proceeding with the controversial US missile defence shield.

Russia, which along with China had been hostile to the project from the outset, hailed Mr Clinton's "constructive approach" to the issue.

"There is a hope that a balanced approach towards solving the world's key problems, primarily those concerning global security, will prevail," said General Leonid Ivashov, head of the Russian defence ministry's international cooperation department.

Russia was opposed to the proposal on the grounds that it would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, a cornerstone of modern arms control.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation also welcomed the "prudent" decision to delay development of the shield until the next US administration.

The move "appears to be a prudent course of action that balances the many factors involved in this issue," George Robertson, the NATO secretary-general, said. Several NATO states in Europe, notably France and Germany, had expressed the hope that the project would be delayed following problems during recent tests.

Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said: "We welcome the measured approach [of] President Clinton ... which has taken careful account of the views of the United States' allies."

Mr Cook and the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, fearedBritain could become a target for "rogue states" if it went ahead. There has also been concern at the potential cost of buying into future missile defence systems, as well as the possible threat to strategic stability.

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