Washington: The US has denied that the plan to deploy missile-defence systems to Europe was holding up negotiations with Russia on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty.
US and Russian officials have been in negotiations for a year to reach an agreement on a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired in December without a new deal.
Russia`s top military officer, General Nikoloai Makarov, blamed the failure on a new treaty on the missile-defence plans. Moscow adamantly opposes the deployment and the issue has been at the centre of difficult relations between both sides for years.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs rejected that notion, saying Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has not made similar statements in conversations with US President Barack Obama about START.
"The notion that somehow this is in any way an impediment to what`s going on with START is simply not true," Gibbs said. "It certainly wasn`t what President Medvedev told President Obama".
Gibbs said the main holdup on a new treaty is in debating the final language of the agreement. "There are going to be some fights over different words, and that`s what (the negotiators are) working through".
The Kremlin`s anger over the previous Bush administration`s plans to base 10 long-range interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic was the key issue that dragged relations down.
Obama announced in September that he was scrapping those plans in favour of deploying short- and medium-range systems, which he says are more technically sound than the long-range system.
Romania has expressed a willingness to host part of the new system. Russia is concerned that placing the system in what was once its sphere of influence is a threat to its nuclear deterrent. The United States rejects that claim, saying it is designed to defend against missile threat from countries like Iran.