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. Czech PM aims to tie up deal on US defence shield: report

Czech prime minister Mrek Topolanek
by Staff Writers
Prague (AFP) Jan 2, 2008
The Czech prime minister Mrek Topolanek has said he plans to tie up negotiations on a planned US defence shield before the end of President George W. Bush's administration and intends to visit Washington next month.

Topolanek told the Hospodarske Noviny business daily he will fly out on February 27 on an official visit with the aim of pushing through a deal on hosting a missile tracking radar as part of the US plans.

"At this stage there is no threat that the radar question will be postponed to a new American administration," Topolanek told the paper in an interview to be published Friday but posted early on its website www.ihned.cz.

"We want to deal with this during this administrative term," he said.

Topolanek wants to coordinate its plans with Warsaw, where 10 interceptor missiles capable of shooting hostile rockets out of the sky will be sited under the American plans, the website said.

Poland's recently elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk is due to visit the US this month, it pointed out.

Chief US negotiator on the shield, John Rood, said during negotiations in Prague mid-December that the "finish line (for a deal) is certainly within view" but refused to give a target date.

The US says it wants to extend its anti-missile shield to the two former Soviet bloc countries to counter the threat of an attack from "rogue" states such as Iran.

The move has sparked Russian hostility and soured relations between Washington and Moscow, which sees the shield as a threat to its security.

Any radar deal must be approved by Czech lawmakers after the government flatly opposed a referendum on the controversial US base, which is opposed by a majority of the population according to polls.

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