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US says 'optimistic' on missile shield deal with Poland

by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) May 6, 2008
Washington is "optimistic" that it will be able to reach a deal with Poland over US plans to base a missile shield there, a senior US arms control official told reporters here on Tuesday.

"I remain optimistic that we're going to successfully conclude our negotiations with the Poles to place a site for missile defence interceptors in that country," US Under Secretary for Arms Control John Rood Rood said, on the eve of a round of negotiations between Polish and US officials in Warsaw.

"I had the opportunity to see my Polish counterpart yesterday in Prague. There are some important issues that still need to be resolved in our bilateral negotiations with the Poles," said Rood, who is the United States' lead negotiator on the issue. "But, as I say, I remain optimistic."

The US is seeking to set up 10 silos in Poland for interceptor missiles by 2012-13.

It has already struck an agreement with Poland's neighbour, the Czech Republic, to install a powerful tracking radar on Czech soil designed to work with the proposed base in Poland.

Opinion polls show around two thirds of Czechs are opposed to hosting the US radar.

The United States insists the shield is designed to ward off potential ballistic missile attacks by so-called "rogue" states, notably Iran.

"The I's have been dotted and the T's have been crossed" on the Czech agreement, Rood said.

"It's now just a matter of allowing for the agreement to be formally signed."

Amid concerns about the potential risks of hosting the silos, Poland is seeking additional security guarantees from Washington before it decides whether to give the green light for a US base.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned earlier Tuesday that Warsaw would block the missile shield plans in Poland unless Washington met its demands, including helping upgrade Poland's military.

"We are waiting for practical proposals. If there aren't any, then there won't be a decision" on the planned deployment, Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.

Warsaw has been pressing for a broad aid package to modernise the Polish armed forces, including US Patriot 3 or THAAD air-defence systems, as well as a bilateral security accord.

After decades under Moscow's control, Poland and the Czech Republic broke free from the crumbling communist bloc in 1989, and are now staunch US allies. They joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

Russia has blasted the US plans as a national security threat on its doorstep and Cold War-era stomping ground, in an echo of the angry East-West rhetoric of the past.

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BMD Focus: West trumps East -- Part 2
Washington (UPI) May 6, 2008
Several years ago, not long after Poland and the Czech Republic had been admitted to NATO, prominent Polish politician and intellectual and later Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorsky warned a conservative Washington audience the pro-American sentiments they had enjoyed in the decade and more since the collapse of communism in 1989-91 would only last a few more years.

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