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Czechs denies seeking US military aid in anti-missile radar deal

by Staff Writers
Prague (AFP) April 15, 2008
The Czech defence ministry denied on Tuesday that it was seeking help from the United States to modernise its armed forces in return for it hosting an anti-missile radar.

Public broadcaster Czech Television reported Monday, citing a deputy defence minister, that Prague was seeking Washington's help to acquire two mid-range tactical transport planes and improve its air defences, possibly with Patriot missiles.

"We have asked the US for cooperation in the acquisition of two mid-range tactical transport planes and that should be raised in the framework of anti-missile defence negotiations," deputy defence minister Martin Bartak said on TV.

But the defence ministry said there was a misunderstanding: "The US could help us in some way with obtaining Hercules aircraft," spokesman Jan Pejsek told AFP, adding however, that this formed part of long-term cooperation talks not linked to hosting the radar system.

"We are not discussing Patriot missiles. That is a question for the future," he added.

The broadcaster suggested the government had for the first time sought US help for modernising its army as part of the radar deal. Until now, Prague has only demanded research and technical cooperation with Washington.

The US says wants it to operate together with interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland to defend against missile attacks from countries it regards as "rogue states" such as Iran.

Russia has strongly opposed the installations, which would lie in what was the former Soviet Union's sphere of influence. Moscow is worried that the system could pose a threat to its own security.

The Czech Republic and US announced a diplomatic deal over the radar at the NATO summit in Bucharest.

Together with another accord over US soldiers sited at the base, it still has to be approved by the Czech parliament.

But Topolanek's centre-right coalition cannot be certain of winning a majority for the agreement.

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Outside View: ABMs for Europe -- Part 1
Moscow, April 15, 2008
The results of the Bucharest NATO summit, the NATO-Russia Council meetings, and talks between U.S. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi have been summed up in what has now become a standard comment: The NATO summit made up for suspending the Membership Action Plan for Ukraine and Georgia with the full support for the deployment of an American missile shield in Europe. (Nikita Petrov is a Russian military analyst who writes on military issues for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.) (United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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