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US Requests Official Talks Over Czech Anti-Missile Installation

The town of Dobris is one of the areas being consider for an underground anti-missile complex.

Russian politician warns Czechs over US anti-missile site
Moscow (AFP) Jan 20 - A senior Russian politician warned the Czech Republic on Saturday of negative consequences if Prague agrees to a US request to site a controversial anti-missile system on Czech soil. "This decision, if taken by the Czechs, will not be without consequences," Andrei Kokoshin, the president of the parliamentary committee for the former Soviet states, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

He warned Prague that the Russian parliament, or Duma, could "recommend, in return, measures which will not necessarily be symmetrical and which will allow us to ensure the strategic stability and national security of Russia" and its allies. Such an anti-missile system could "threaten the interests of Russia and Belarus", Kokoshin said.

On Friday Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek announced the United States has asked Prague to start talks on "the possible siting of an anti-ballistic missile defence system in our country. Concretely, this would be a radar station." The official US request came within minutes of Topolanek's centre-right government being confirmed in power. The government which backs Czech participation in the US defence system.

Washington wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Europe to reinforce its defences against the perceived threat of a ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran. It has been eyeing the Czech Republic or Poland as the favoured home for the controversial new system but has also it could be split beween countries. Russia has fiercely attacked the plan, with Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov saying in November 2006 it wasa "destabilising" move to which Russia would respond.

by Staff Writers
Prague (AFP) Jan 20, 2007
The United States has asked to start talks on siting part of a controversial anti-missile system on Czech soil, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said on Saturday. "Late last night we were informed that they would like to launch negotiations over the possible siting of an anti-ballistic missile defence system in our country. Concretely, this would be a radar station," Topolanek announced at a news conference.

The official US request came within minutes of Topolanek's centre-right government, which backs Czech participation in the US defence system, being confirmed in power. The confirmation came in a crucial parliamentary confidence vote which ended more than seven months of political deadlock.

Washington wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar in Europe to reinforce its defences against the perceived threat of a ballistic missile attack from North Korea or Iran.

It has been eyeing the Czech Republic or Poland as the favoured home for the controversial new system but has also it could be split between countries.

Russia has fiercely attacked the plan, with Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov saying in November 2006 it was a "destabilising" move that Russia would respond to.

"This decision, if taken by the Czechs, will not be without consequences," Andrei Kokoshin, the chairman of the Russian parliament's committee for the former Soviet states, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying on Saturday.

He warned Prague that the Russian parliament, or Duma, could "recommend, in return, measures which will not necessarily be symmetrical and which will allow us to ensure the strategic stability and national security of Russia" and its allies.

Such an anti-missile system could "threaten the interests of Russia and Belarus", Kokoshin said.

Topolanek said negotiations with the US would take "several months" but that the facility could probably be up and running by 2011.

"The possible siting of the radar on our soil is in our interest and will increase the security of the Czech Republic and Europe," he said.

The choice of the Czech Republic as a possible site was to some extent an appreciation of the country's contribution to NATO since it joined the military alliance in 2004, he added.

The siting of a foreign base and personnel is a sensitive issue in the former Soviet Bloc state, which was invaded by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968 when it revolted against Soviet domination.

Both houses of the Czech parliament will have to approve such a move. Topolanek's three-way coalition only commands 100 votes in the 200-seat lower house and was only confirmed in power on Friday thanks to two rebel Social Democrats. The government has offered to resign if key pieces of legislation are blocked.

The main opposition Social Democrats have attacked the US base proposal, calling for a referendum on the issue. The Communists are resolutely opposed.

Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova appealed on Saturday for the issue to be debated seriously and not become an ideological football.

Siting a US base on Czech territory was "not a question for a referendum" Topolanek said on Saturday. "It is a specialist issue and a security question," he added.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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