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US Missile Shield Would Include Caucasus-Based Radar
The volatile Caucasus region.
The volatile Caucasus region.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Mar 01, 2007
US plans to extend a missile defence system into Europe, which have been met with hostility by Russia, include a radar system based in the Caucasus, the head of the US missile agency said Thursday. The "forward deployable radar" would provide an "early acquisition track" on any hostile missile for a bigger radar system based in the Czech Republic, US Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering said.

"It's a transportable radar, it's something that you can set up in a matter of days, very, very fast. We have time to work out where that location could be," he told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

When asked which country in the volatile Caucasus region might be willing to host the site, he said: "I am not at liberty to talk about that in any length ... suffice to say that we would like to place a radar in that region."

Obering, who met with Russian officials here during two days of talks, played down any potential risk this mobile radar could pose to Russia.

"That radar would be oriented into Iran. We can't turn it around to look into Russia, and even if we can, it can't see far enough to be able to establish a track on a Russian missile," he said.

The United States announced in January it had begun negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic to install a radar and 10 missile interceptors, prompting strong objections from neighbouring Russia and an outcry in Europe.

Washington maintains that the system would help protect its European allies and is only meant to be used against "rogue threats" from countries like Iran or North Korea.

Obering was unable to say what was really behind Russia's hostility, which he said had surprised the United States.

"I don't want to guess, but there's something else, obviously, there must be something else they are concerned about. But I frankly don't believe that it is a concern about changing the strategic balance between the United States and Russia," he said.

"These are not offensive missiles, they are defensive missiles and they do not have warheads."

He said that Russia would be welcome to inspect the European sites, if the Czech Republic and Poland agree.

"If it's OK with those nations, it's OK with us," he said.

Obering explained that the European part of the system will see 10 interceptor missiles set up in Poland in an area the size of a football field, at a total cost of up to 2.5 billion dollars (1.9 billion euros).

The radar system in the Czech Republic -- to be moved there from its current base in the South Pacific region -- would cost some 500 million dollars.

He said that Boeing was best placed to win the Polish contract.

Construction is set to commence next year, with the first interceptors being operational by 2011, while the entire system is expected to be up and running two years later.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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