MOSCOW — The Kremlin has rejected a second set of U.S. proposals offered to assuage increasingly strident Russian criticism of plans for an American missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, news agencies reported Wednesday.
The Bush administration says the system would protect Europe against potential future attacks by Iranian long-range missiles. Moscow has angrily dismissed those assertions, saying the system could eliminate Russia's nuclear deterrent or spy on its military installations.
In a major speech just hours after Barack Obama won the U.S. presidential vote, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to base short-range Iskander missiles in the Baltic Sea region of Kaliningrad on the border with Poland if the U.S. goes forward with its plans.
The Bush administration later sent Moscow a new set of proposals, including suggestions about allowing Russian observers at the planned U.S. sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to John Rood, the U.S. acting undersecretary of state for arms control.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said over the weekend the latest U.S. proposals were insufficient. On Wednesday, an unidentified Kremlin official told Russian news agencies that Moscow was prepared to work with Washington on questions of European security but accused the Bush administration of trying to limit the incoming Obama administration's choices on the issue.
The Kremlin did not comment on the report, but Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell did.
"I hope this unnamed Kremlin official does not express his government's true wishes because we still very much wish to partner with Russia to combat the growing ballistic missile threat emanating from Iran," he said, noting that Tehran conducted another missile test Wednesday.
"They are clearly determined to develop a weapon capable of reaching Europe, and for that matter Russia, so it continues to be in our mutual interest to work together on this issue," Morrell said.
Iran's defense minister announced the country has successfully test-fired a new, more accurate generation of its longest-range surface-to-surface missile. Iranian television showed the missile being fired Wednesday from a launching pad in the desert.
Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said Wednesday that Russia has not said what part of the new U.S. proposals it objects to.
"We have laid out very common sense approaches here," Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III said in Washington. "I think it is time that we ask the Russians to justify why they are taking a stance that internationally is so unreasonable."
Obama's plans remain unclear regarding the missile defense system, but an Obama aide has said the incoming U.S. president did not commit to the missile defense plans during a recent conversation with Poland's president.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the U.S. envoy William Burns met with Lavrov and Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko on Wednesday to discuss missile defense talks taking place next month. No further details were released.
An American official said separately the U.S. and Russia will begin talks Thursday in Geneva on finding a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires at the end of next year. The 1991 START treaty significantly cut U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.
The official spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to be quoted by name.
Associated Press Writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva, Foster Klug and Desmond Butler in Washington, and Lolita Baldor in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.