Bremen (AFP) Germany, March 31, 2007
EU foreign ministers will await NATO talks with Russia before formally discussing US plans to install parts of an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, the German foreign minister said Saturday.
"Our approach is that we wait for the results in NATO and the NATO-Russia council (on April 19) and in the light of that result we'll see to what extent it will come back to our table," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Bremen, Germany.
There is a process under way between US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, he added.
Russia has strongly objected to a US plan to put a radar system in the Czech Republic and missiles in neighbouring Poland to defend against what Washington says are potential attacks from "rogue" states such as Iran or North Korea.
Both the Czech Republic and Poland were under Moscow's control during the Soviet era but the two countries are now members of the NATO military alliance and have said that Russia has no say in their security arrangements.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called at the European parliament on Thursday for the European Union to discuss the issue.
EU foreign ministers did consider it during their informal meeting in Bremen, Solana spokeswoman Cristina Gallach said earlier.
They could put it on the agenda officially at their meeting in Luxembourg on April 23, she added.
Parts of the US missile shield are already in place in the United States, Britain and Greenland, and Pentagon officials say the plan is to have the system operational by 2013.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said Friday his country would discuss its hosting of the controversial US shield with Moscow and NATO. But he defended plans for his country to go ahead with the project.
A Russian foreign ministry official said Friday that Moscow is willing to participate in the creation of a European anti-missile defence system.
Czechs to discuss US missile shield with Moscow
"The Czech Republic has the right to sign a bilateral agreement with the Americans as have done several European countries such as the United Kingdom," Topolanek said.
"However, we will enter consultations about the issue not only with our NATO partners but also with Russia," he added at a news conference with Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Gyurcsany at the end of a two-day visit.
Topolanek said on Wednesday Prague would begin negotiations with Washington over hosting part of the US missile shield in a move likely to boost growing opposition at home.
His announcement was welcomed by the US embassy in Prague but opposition to the US plans have been growing in the Czech Republic since late last year.
According to a recent poll by the official agency, CVVM, 61 percent of Czechs are against it.
Opponents have accused the prime minister of "excessive servility" to the US and say the project undermines national sovereignty. They also worry that it would make the Czech republic a target.
Meanwhile, the Czech defence ministry announced Friday that a team of US experts would visit the country Monday to inspect a possible site for the radar. The mission was to last five days.
Washington wants to build a radar system in the Czech Republic and put missiles in neighbouring Poland to defend against what it says are potential attacks from "rogue" states such as Iran.
In Budapest Topolanek said he had agreed to holding talks with his NATO partners to allow for a possible pairing of the US shield and a similar future defence system that could be set up by NATO.
Gyurcsany said that the US missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland would "not only protect these two countries but also the vast majority of Europe".
Hungary as well as the Czech Republic and Poland are new members of the European Union and NATO.
Topolanek had said Wednesday that Prague "recognises the risks for which the anti-missile base should be built," and added that he "would strive for the anti-missile defence system to be integrated in the future defence framework of the North Atlantic Alliance."
In Poland the government has insisted the base is a purely bilateral issue between Warsaw and Washington. Austria and NATO members France, Germany, Slovakia and Spain have all expressed reservations about the project which the Americans want operational by 2011.
The US plan has provoked a furious reaction from Moscow, which sees the shield proposal as a threat to its national security. Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Moscow's opposition in a telephone call to his US counterpart George Bush on Wednesday.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Moscow (AFP) March 31, 2007
Russia denied on Saturday that it was ready to let the United States place part of its controversial missile defence shield on Russian territory. Foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement that such reports "do not accord with reality and absolutely do not reflect Russia's position on the problem of missile defence."
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