Nato backs missile defense system


US president Barack Obama says Nato has agreed to his plans for a new, expanded missile defence system for Europe that would cover all Nato member countries and the US.

The missile system will involve stationing US interceptor missiles and radar in Europe. Officials have said the 28 Nato states will invest €200 millionto link existing anti-missile systems to the US system.

"It offers a role for all of our allies. It responds to the threats of our times," Mr Obama told reporters at a Nato summit in Lisbon.

The leaders will invite Moscow, Nato's former Cold War enemy, to join the system when they meet Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in Lisbon tomorrow.

"Tomorrow we look forward to working with Russia to build our cooperation with them in this area as well, recognising that we share many of the same threats,"Mr Obama said.

Nato hopes to ease Russia's concerns about what the system aims to do, and involve the Kremlin at some level without compromising the years of work that have already been done on preparing a missile defence system.

Mr Obama said the plans would be built around the US system, known as the Phased Adaptive Approach, which he announced last year.

This will involve the stationing of ship-based interceptors in the Mediterranean from 2011, followed by land-based interceptors in Romania from 2015 and in Poland from 2018.

The United States is also keen to station a forward radar in Turkey, another Nato state.

Nato officials have said in the past the system is intended to counter missile threats from the Middle East, in particular Iran. By 2020 it will be able to defend against the longest range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles.

Given Turkish objections to singling out states such as Iran as threats, Nato has stopped referring specifically to Tehran when explaining the need for the system.

Nato diplomats have said details, including command and control, will be worked out later.

They said expectations were that the shield would be operated through Nato's existing command structure in tandem with national commands, as is already the case with air defence.