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Russia to build powerful missile

By Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW DEC. 22. Russia will build a more powerful nuclear-tipped missile to ensure strategic parity with the United States, a Russian military spokesman said today.

Next year, Russia will begin designing a new long-range missile armed with 10 nuclear warheads, the Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the General Staff as saying.

"The missile will be powered by a liquid-fuel engine which will enable it to carry up to four tons of payload," the spokesman said. The announcement was made a day after Russia inducted six new Topol-M nuclear missiles, touted as a "21st century weapon".

"This is the most advanced state-of-the-art missile in the world," said the Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, at an induction ceremony broadcast by Russian television stations on Monday. "Only such weapons can guarantee our sovereignty and security and make any attempts to put military pressure on Russia absolutely senseless."

The 47-ton 18-metre Topol-M missile, capable of hitting targets more than 10,800 km away, is said to be a full generation ahead of U.S. missiles and cannot be shot down either by existing or future anti-missile systems. It is also immune to electronic jamming.

So far, Russia has been deploying the silo-based single-warhead Topol-M missiles. Its mobile version, armed with four to six warheads and mounted on a heavy off-road vehicle, is set to become operational next year, the General Staff spokesman said today.

The new missile will be three times more powerful compared to Topol-M, he told Interfax. All in all, Russia by 2012 will have between 1700 to 2200 nuclear warheads on its long-range missiles, the maximum arsenal allowed under the Russian-American strategic weapons treaty signed in May 2002. "This will enable Russia to maintain nuclear parity with the U.S."

The head of the U.S.-backed interim Governing Council of Iraq, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who is leading a delegation of the Council, told the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Kremlin today that Iraq was open for Russian business.

"It is an open field and Russian companies can come and successfully compete in our country," said the Iraqi leader.

"We are interested in getting Russian assistance in rebuilding Iraq." The delegation also included the Iraqi Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani. Mr. Putin said that Russian companies were looking forward to working in Iraq.

"According to preliminary estimates, Russian companies can invest $4 billions in Iraq in a very short time," he said.

Russian companies signed oil contracts worth billions of dollars with the regime of Saddam Hussein, but they have been in doubt because of Russia's fierce opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Last week, Moscow said it was willing to discuss lowering Iraq's debts in exchange for new contracts for its companies.

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