Kiev (AFP) March 06, 2007
A Pentagon delegation is to visit Ukraine next week to discuss US plans to extend an anti-missile shield into neighbouring Poland and the Czech Republic, Defence Minister Anatoly Grytsenko said Tuesday. "To determine Ukraine's position on this matter we need detailed information on the elements of the shield that the United States plans on deploying on Polish and Czech territory," he told the Interfax news agency.
"We are counting on getting this information on March 14," he added. That is when a US team led by Lieutenant General Henry Obering, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, will arrive in the country.
Grytsenko said that US statements on the issue to date could have been more prudent and better judged.
"We could have avoided conflicts if the Poles, the Czechs, the Ukranians and the Russians had obtained reasoned explanations on the destination of these installations and the possible consequences of their deployment," he said.
While Ukraine may not yet have declared its official position, there are differences at the top.
Viktor Yushchenko, the country's pro-western president, has criticised the position of his pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, who fears the project risks damaging relations between Ukraine and Poland.
Yushchenko argues that it is an internal matter for Poland.
While his defence minister Grytsenko shares Yuschenko's pro-western outlook, the pro-Russian Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said last month that an extension of the United States' missile shield constituted a threat to Russia.
The plan to establish a radar station in the Czech Republic and an underground missile silo in Poland has been sharply criticized by Moscow.
Washington has stressed that the defence shield is not directed against Russia but is intended to protect against attack from countries such as Iran or North Korea.
But Obering suggested last week that the system might also require a radar system based in one of the Caucasus nations south of Russia.
earlier related report
"It is not ruled out," a presidency official told reporters, ahead of the two-day summit in Brussels starting Thursday.
The topic shot onto the EU's agenda on Monday when Austria requested that EU foreign ministers hear from their Polish and Czech counterparts, where parts of the missile defence system are likely to be located.
The costs and its effects on Russia raised most concern.
"The price of a single missile would be enough to eliminate AIDS in Africa," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, adding: "We'll never have stability in Europe if we push Russia into a corner."
The United States wants to build a bank of 10 interceptors in Poland from next year to shoot down missiles that might be fired from "rogue states" like Iran or North Korea.
The interceptors would home in on information provided by a tracking station to be set up in the Czech Republic, as well as a forward operating radar at an undisclosed location in the Caucasus.
Washington maintains that the new part of the shield -- to be fully operational by 2013 -- would protect not only eastern parts of the United States, but also many of its European allies.
However Russia, fearing such a system on its doorstep run by its former Cold War foe, has expressed doubts about the real intentions behind the installation and has promised to take action to counter its effects.
"NATO is the forum to discuss this topic," German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said Friday.
Despite this, the Polish and Czech foreign ministers told their EU counterparts Monday that they have not yet decided whether to allow construction to go ahead.
The Czech Republic's Karel Schwarzenberg and Poland's Anna Fotyga said "that their governments are still thinking about it, that it is still at an early stage, and that there is still no definitive decision," the EU presidency said.
They said the response to the US offer "could take some time" and "will be taken in cooperation with the EU countries," according to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
But the the Czech deputy prime minister has already said his country would probably agree to open negotiations, despite a recent poll showing that 61 percent of Czechs oppose the plan.
On February 23, Poland expressed "the intention to open negotiations on the project, at the same time noting that all agreements must contribute to the security of Poland and of the US, and thereby to international security."
The missile interceptors, to be set up in a football-size area at a cost of up to 2.5 billion dollars (1.9 billion euros), would not carry warheads and would rely on speed to destroy their targets at extremely high altitude.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Tyumen, Siberia (RIA Novosti) Mar 07, 2007
The United States is prepared to cooperate with Russia on missile defense, the U.S. Ambassador in Russia said Tuesday. William Burns, who is on a tour of Siberia, said both countries should continue a serious dialogue to clarify their respective positions and work out controversial issues.
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