Iran poses no threat to the United States, Russia said Tuesday, rebuffing a key argument of President Barack Obama on whether to go ahead with a European missile shield bitterly opposed by Moscow.
Former president George W. Bush had infuriated Russia by striking a deal to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and related radar stations in the Czech Republic, saying they were needed to counter "rogue states" such as Iran.
The Obama administration says it is reviewing the shield project, studying whether it is militarily justified and cost effective.
But Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, said that the Iran threat was a myth.
"I don't see any threat to the United States coming from Iran anytime soon," Kislyak told a conference of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He said the shield in the former Soviet bloc nations also failed to cover all of the NATO alliance.
"It didn't accomplish a single stated goal that we were told was the reason to deploy. If that was the case, that means there was something else behind this," Kislyak said.
Western nations widely suspect that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, although Obama has also reached out to try to repair relations with the Islamic republic.
Kislyak said that Russia was encouraged by Obama's approach. Under Bush, Russia engaged in some of the harshest rhetorical attacks on the United States since the Cold War.
"We sense that the American administration is willing at least to engage in serious discussions and we welcome this," he said.
"We are looking forward to these discussions because things which have been developing so far were of great concern to us," he said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed Obama as "my new comrade" after their first face-to-face talks last week, saying the new president "can listen."
Obama also met on his recent European trip with leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic who pressed him to go ahead with the missile shield.