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Poles And Czechs To Cooperate In US Missile Talks

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski (R) and his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek smile during an official welcoming ceremony at the court of Belweder palace in Warsaw 19 February 2007. Topolanek pays a two-day official visit to Poland. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Feb 20, 2007
Poland and the Czech Republic said Monday they would work together in talks with Washington on the missile defence shield it wants to set up in central Europe, even as Russia threatened retaliation. "We are trying to set up an information-sharing system for discussions on this proposal," Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said during a press conference with his Polish counterpart Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

"We have agreed that both countries are likely to give (Washington) a positive answer. Talks will begin after that," Topolanek said.

"It is in our interests to negotiate on this issue. It is in the interests of our countries to host the anti-missile shield," he added.

Poland has said that the United States can expect an answer in the coming two weeks.

The United States said last month it would soon begin formal talks with Poland and the Czech Republic on deploying a missile defence system in Europe, designed to intercept potential attacks from Iran and North Korea.

Russia has objected to having the shield stationed on its doorstep and threatened to pull out of a treaty with the United States limiting short and medium-range missiles.

"We are trying to convince Russia that the system -- and this seems self-evident -- is not directed against it," said Kaczynski.

The system calls for missiles to be deployed in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic by 2012.

Kaczynski and Topolanek have said that they are minded to approve the US request, although both leaders face opposition at home.

General Nikolai Solovtsov, the head of Russia's strategic missile force, said any such US facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic would be added to Moscow's missile target list.

Russia, he said, could easily restart production of medium-range missiles if the decision were taken to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), signed by Moscow and Washington in 1987.

"If the political decision is taken to withdraw from this treaty the strategic missile force will be ready to fulfil this task," Solovtsov said at a news conference.

While Russia had destroyed all its medium-range missiles under the treaty, "all the technical documentation remains and restarting their production will not be difficult," he said.

The INF was recently described as a "relic" of the Cold War by Sergei Ivanov, formerly Russia's defence minister and now a first deputy prime minister.

A NATO spokesman said Russia's threats were "uncalled for."

Meanwhile German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europe was considering its own missile defence system in parallel to the shield the United States wants to put up in Eastern Europe.

But Steinmeier, who has criticized the United States for not discussing its planned missile shield with Russia, acknowledged that Europe does not yet have the technological know-how to build a rival to the US system.

"I think that a lot of countries are interested in these (defence) systems. Time will tell how many of these are effective," Steinmeier said as he left a meeting with Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Baku.

He added: "In Europe, we are also thinking about the creation of such systems and of their deployment. But for the moment we are not very far advanced in terms of the technology."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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German FM Raps US Approach To Missile Shield Plan
Berlin (AFP) Feb 18, 2007
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticised the United States on its plan to station missiles for a defence shield in central Europe, in an interview to be published Monday. Steinmeier told the daily Handelsblatt that Washington would have been better advised to consult with all the countries that would be affected by the move, including Russia.

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