Obama’s secret letter offers deal to Russia

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Obama sent a secret letter to Russia’s president offering to retreat from deploying a missile defense system in Europe if Russia intensified its commitment to isolate Iran.

Moscow has not responded to the letter that was hand-delivered to President Dmitri Medvedev three weeks ago, The New York Times reported late Monday.

Russia has military, diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran, and it has often resisted Washington’s hard line against Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is set to meet Friday in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Obama and Medvedev will meet for the first time on April 2 in London, according to the report.

The Bush administration’s plans for the missile defense system include building a high-tech radar facility in the Czech Republic and deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Russia had proposed to install part of the system on its territory and jointly operate it so it could not be used against Russia, according to the Times.

Israel had voiced support for the system, which is designed in part to deter Iran. But behind the scenes, pro-Israeli figures have suggested it was not worth the cost of alienating Russia, which along with China is a power considered critical in making Iran’s isolation effective.

Medvedev told a news conference Tuesday in Madrid that Russia would be willing to discuss the missile defense structure with the United States but that the country sees Iran’s nuclear program as a separate issue, Reuters reported.

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