No plans to deploy nukes in Belarus - Russian FM

MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister denied Monday any plans by Russia to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus, following last months allegations that nuclear facilities could be deployed on Belarusian territory.

"We do not have any plans of the kind, and the Foreign Ministry has [repeatedly] said this," Sergei Lavrov said.

"Belarus's status is fixed by its Constitution, and that settles the matter, I hope," the minister said.

Some media cited Alexander Surikov, Russia's ambassador to Belarus, as saying in late August that he did not rule out any plans for deployment, but the diplomat said he had been misinterpreted.

The nuclear issue has been hot on the international agenda this year following an announcement by the United States in January that it was planning to locate components of its global antimissile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland to prevent possible strikes from "rogue states," such as Iran and North Korea.

But Russia, already unnerved by NATO expansion to former Warsaw Pact member states, has condemned the plans as a threat to national security and a destabilizing factor for Europe. Moscow warned that its response would be adequate and highly effective.

At the G8 summit in June, President Vladimir Putin offered the U.S. the use of a Russian-leased radar in Azerbaijan as a compromise solution in the ongoing dispute. Three-way consultations between Russia, Azerbaijan, and the United States on the joint use of the Gabala radar are scheduled for September 15.

And the foreign minister said Russia hoped a single approach to missile defense would be achieved at talks on the use of the Gabala radar in Baku next week.

"The Russian president put forward a well-reasoned proposal that would help lift all suspicion of a threat of missile proliferation, against which the U.S. wants to create a shield in Central Europe," Lavrov said.

He added that a visit to the Gabala radar station would be arranged so that U.S. experts could assess the facility and the effectiveness of Russia's proposal.