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Agence France-Presse

Romania to Host US Missile Interceptors: President

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A US Missile Defense Agency photo of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) being launched at the Pacific Missile Range Facility off the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Romania has agreed to host medium-range ballistic missile interceptors which form part of a new US shield system, President Traian Basescu has said.

BUCHAREST - Romania has agreed to host medium-range ballistic missile interceptors which form part of a new US shield system, President Traian Basescu said on Thursday.

"Romania has been officially invited by US President Barack Obama to be part of the missile defence system," Basescu said at the end of a meeting of the supreme defence council.

The former communist state had agreed to participate as the new system would "protect the whole of Romania's territory", the president added, stressing that it should not be seen as hostile towards Russia.

"This defence system is not directed against Russia," Basescu said.

The president, who was narrowly re-elected in a December election, said that the system should be operational by 2015.

The United States in September shelved a plan to place missile defence facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland that had worried Moscow, in a move greeted with enthusiasm by the Kremlin.

The revamped system has also won backing from two other former Soviet bloc countries, the Czech Republic and Poland.

"The decision we have taken today helps consolidate our partnership with the US and reinforce the country's security level," Basescu stressed.

Negotiations between Washington and Bucharest should start shortly and the agreements reached will be submitted to Romanian parliament for ratification, he added.

The deployment of missile shield elements in Romania was first mentioned last October during a visist by US vice president Joe Biden, who hailed Bucharest's "embrace for the new missile defence architecture."

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