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Georgia open to talks on missile shield Fidelius Schmid in Brussels and Peter Ehrlich and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington Updated: 12:42 a.m. CT May 2, 2007 FT.com

Georgia has said it will consider hosting parts of a US missile defence shield on its territory.

Gela Bezhuashvili, the foreign minister, said: "If [the US] came and told us that they want to, we would certainly be willing to talk about it."

Lieutenant General Trey Obering, head of the US Missile Defense Agency, has said the US would like to place a forward radar in the Caucasus. The Pentagon says the radar facilitate more comprehensive tracking ability of missiles originating from Iran. The US has also suggested that it would be willing to jointly locate a radar in Russia.

But the comments could fuel tensions between Russia and the west over the system the US wants to build in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against missile threats from Iran.

Robert Gates, US defence secretary, visited Moscow last week in an attempt to ease concerns. But after talks with senior officials, Vladimir Putin, the president, threatened to stop implementing a 1990 treaty limiting non-nuclear arms staged in Europe, partly because of the US plans.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said it was unacceptable for Nato infrastructure to be "creeping up to the Russian border".

Mr Bezhuashvili said the US had not requested talks with Georgia formally. "There is no formal application, not even informal talks," he said. "But if they ask for help, we will talk with them."

Unlike Poland or the Czech Republic, Georgia was not expecting domestic hostility to the plans, said Mr Bezhuashvili. "We have public support for Nato membership at 84 per cent, have recently doubled our troops in Iraq – I do not think it would be a problem."

The pro-western stance in Tbilisi has angered Russia in the past. Last year, Georgia arrested Russian military personnel, accusing them of spying, and setting off a diplomatic row. Russia is said to be angered by Georgia's ambitions to join Nato.

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