Putin urges Obama to scrap shield

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has urged the US to move relations forward by shelving plans for a missile defence shield in Europe.

His comments come ahead of a summit between US President Barack Obama and Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev.

They serve, correspondents say, as a clear sign that the powerful former president will have to be taken into account during the negotiations.

Mr Obama is preparing to visit Moscow between 6 and 8 July.

Reducing both countries' nuclear stockpiles, as well as Iran and North Korea, will be on the agenda when he meets Mr Medvedev.

'Two feet'

Mr Obama said on Thursday that the US was developing a "very good relationship" with the Russian president. But, says the BBC's Richard Galpin in Moscow, Mr Putin has persistently made it clear that it is he - not his successor - who takes all the key decisions.

Mr Putin said the US needed to change its policy on siting a missile defence shield in Europe and on expanding military blocs - a reference to Nato expansion into Eastern Europe.

"If we see [that] our American partners refrain from deploying new missile complexes, anti-missile defence systems, or for example review their approach to widening military-political blocs... this would be a big movement forward," Interfax news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying.

Russian officials earlier told the BBC that they were optimistic of a major step forward in negotiating further cuts to nuclear arsenals at the summit.

But, our correspondent says, Moscow's long-held objections to America's missile shield plans have always been a potential obstacle to an agreement on disarmament.

On Tuesday, Mr Obama urged Russia to end "old Cold War approaches" to ties - and described Mr Putin as having one foot in the past.

Mr Putin hit back. Russians, he said, "stand solidly on their own two feet and always look to the future".

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