WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States said Thursday it would not review plans for a missile defense system in Europe if Iran gave up its sensitive uranium enrichment program.
Any review of the controversial plan would occur only if there was a change in the overall threat posed by Iran, including from its missiles, the State Department said.
It was clarifying remarks by Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried in Brussels Wednesday indicating that Washington could change its approach to developing the missile shield opposed by Russia if Iran were to suspend uranium enrichment in its nuclear program.
The shield is "intended against the major problem we see developing, which is Iran, and if that problem went away or attenuated we would obviously draw conclusions," Fried said.
"This is a threat-based system, and we would be affected if Iran gave up its (uranium) enrichment and worked with the international community, and had a different approach to things," Fried said.
But Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said Thursday, "I think there has a been a great deal of confusion and a great deal of misconstruing of remarks that may or may not have been made out in Brussels.
"The US position is clear -- there is a threat that exists from rogue states in terms of missiles, that includes missiles armed with convention munitions as well as potentially missiles armed with nuclear and other WMD (weapons of mass destruction) agents," he said.
"I saw some interpretations that seem to say if Iran suspends its enrichment activities, there would be a suspension or a halt or a decision not to proceed with the US missile defense systems. That's simply not true," he said.
Moscow is deeply opposed to US moves to extend its vast missile shield into Europe, by installing 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar in the Czech Republic.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States might be ready to soften its position over its move to install the shield in central Europe but provided no details.
"The latest contacts with the Americans demonstrate that a certain change in their point of view is possible," he told Iranian media during a landmark visit to Tehran. "We will continue our dialogue."
Casey said it was "very important" to have a defense shield against "real threats" posed by missiles or the potential for missiles, including nuclear armed missiles, of "some fairly unsavory states" or others.
The American intelligence community has estimated that Tehran, which has defied UN sanctions to pursue a sensitive nuclear program, could develop long-range missiles capable of reaching all of Europe and the United States before 2015 if it chooses to do so, he said.
Iran has an array of medium-range missiles and claims that its longer-range Shahab-3 missile has a reach of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), which would put US bases on the Arabian peninsula within reach.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »