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RUSSIA DROPS PLAN TO DEPLOY MISSILES

The move comes after the U.S. ends plans for missile sites in Eastern Europe.

Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW - Russia will drop its controversial threat to deploy missiles near Poland in a reaction to shifts in U.S. missile shield plans, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

After President Barack Obama decided last week to scrap planned missile facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, Moscow was expected to follow suit and abandon its threat to deploy Iskander missile systems in the far western Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

"Naturally, we will cancel the measures that Russia planned to take in response to the deployment of U.S. missile defense systems," Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. "Common sense has finally prevailed over ambitions."

Obama's move to scrap plans for the missile facilities, which the Kremlin viewed as a menace, removes a stubborn sticking point from U.S.-Russian relations. The timing suggests it might have been intended to woo Moscow into growing more helpful on the issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russia has come under heavy pressure from Israel and the United States to toughen its stance against Iran's nuclear program. On Oct. 1, officials from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are scheduled to meet with Iranian diplomats in Turkey.

But Russia's abandonment of an unfulfilled threat is unlikely to boost Western hopes for cooperation on the Iran issue.

Russia generally has backed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and been at pains to maintain cordial relations - and considerable trade interests - with Iran.

But on Saturday, the Russian government sharply criticized Ahmadinejad for calling the Holocaust a "myth."

"Statements to that effect, no matter where they come from, signify a departure from the truth, and are unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said. "Attempts to deny the Holocaust ... are an insult to all (World War II) victims and to all those who fought against fascism."

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