A senior US official said on Thursday that the missile defense missile shield that the United States plans to deploy in eastern Europe could be complementary to NATO's missile defense capabilities.
Seeking to allay European fears over the planned missile shield, Director Henry A. Obering of the US Missile Defense Agency is briefing the German government and parliament in Berlin.
The system is needed to counter the threat from Iran's nuclear program, he told reporters, reaffirming that it is not aimed at Moscow.
"We have the obligation to protect the U.S. and its allies from that threat," he said.
When asked whether the system could be integrated into NATO's military capabilities as required by its European allies, Obering said he would "not averse to" that.
"We will continue to consult with our NATO allies," he said.
However, he made it clear that the project will not be passed to NATO because that would mean delays.
Obering said it could be complementary to NATO's missile defense system. "This could be viewed as a U.S., a Polish and a Czech Republic contribution to a missile defense capability for NATO in general, and it certainly complements what could be coming out of a NATO missile defense program on its own."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that the matter should be discussed within the NATO rather than on a bilateral basis.
Earlier this week, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that the alliance risks being split between countries covered by the shield and other member states left exposed to missile threats.
"When it comes to missile defense, there shouldn't be an A- league and a B-league within NATO," Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in an interview with the European daily Financial Times published Monday.
The US plans to deploy about 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar tracking system in the Czech Republic. The Polish and Czech leaders have indicated that they would allow the deployment.
However, Russia said that such a move would damage the relations between Washington and Moscow, believing it threatens its security.
"We are talking about 10 interceptors.... This in no way, shape or form threatens the Russian missile fleet," Obering said.
Obering, who is on a lobby trip for the shield, is also scheduled to visit France later on.