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Romania to host missile defense base

Associated Press / May 4, 2011

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DEVESELU, Romania — Romania’s president said yesterday that his country will host missile interceptors as part of a planned US shield over Europe.

Traian Basescu said that Bucharest had agreed to build the interceptor site at the former Deveselu air base near the Bulgarian border, in a remote agricultural region. Romania already had agreed to host the interceptors, but the location had not been decided. The president, a staunch ally of the United States, said it would give Romania “the highest security level in its history.’’

The news prompted a strong complaint from Russia, which sees European missile defense as a potential encroachment.

Basescu earlier met with US Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher and she traveled to the site, some 125 miles southwest of Bucharest.

Romanian and US officials later held a ceremony at the former air base. It was built with Soviet help in 1952, when the first MiG-15s landed there.

An average of 200 troops will be based at the site, which can host a maximum of 500.

Russia’s foreign ministry criticized the Romanian decision sharply.

“Regrettably, we find that practical steps in the creation of the European segment of the US global missile defense are being taken regardless of the Russia-US missile defense dialogue,’’ the ministry said in a statement reported on Russian news agencies.

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