Bulgaria Parliament Speaker: No Missile Shield Discussions
Bulgaria's Parliamentary Speaker, Tsetska Tsacheva, who is on an official visit to Moscow, has stated that Bulgaria has not discussed whether it should join the proposed US missile shield.
Tsacheva was responding to a question posed by her Russian counterpart, Boris Gryzlov, as the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, discussed the new strategic arms treaty (START).
The Duma Speaker has announced that it might block the treaty unless it was linked to missile defense.
"We will not ratify it, if it does not take into account the link between strategic offensive weapons and missile defense," Gryzlov said, as cited by local media on Tuesday.
He told Tsacheva that US plans to deploy elements of a missile defense shield in eastern Europe were "a particularly sensitive issue for Russia".
Tsacheva replied that the project "has not been discussed either in the government, or in parliament," adding "what is meant here is only NATO's ideas, voiced by US officials through the mass media".
The US missile defence plans have become a major sticking point in the nuclear disarmament negotiations.
On February 12, the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, James B. Warlick, said there had been informal discussions at different levels "in Sofia and in Washington" about basing parts of the American missile shield in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov also said he supported plans for taking part in a new US missile defense system in Europe.
However, Bulgaria informed Russia on February 19 that there had been no official negotiations with the US about the proposed system, nor about Bulgaria's involvement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to meet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on March 18-19, when both sides are expected to discuss the START treaty.
The Kremlin said on Saturday that Presidents Medvedev and Obama had agreed it was now possible to talk about specific dates for signing the new treaty.
Meanwhile, newly elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych suggested Kiev as the venue for the signing when he recently met President Medvedev in Moscow.
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