Friday, July 04, 2008

US, Poland reach tentative pact on missile shield

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Washington (AFP) July 2, 2008

The United States and Poland reached a tentative pact Wednesday on a controversial missile defense shield, part of which Washington wants to site in the former communist country, a senior State Department official said.
"At this point, I am really happy that we made real good progress in the past few days," said the official who asked not to be named, adding that a "tentative agreement" had been reached after two days of talks between Polish and US officials.

The United States wants to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar facility in the neighboring Czech Republic to ward off potential attacks by so-called "rogue" states, notably Iran.

The agreement, of which no details were given, was the result of talks in Washington between US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Rood and two high-ranking officials from the Polish defense and foreign ministries.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, a former ambassador to Poland, said the talks had made real progress but refused to confirm that an agreement had been reached.

"We are satisfied with the way things are going but I don't yet have a bottom line," he said.

"I want to be very careful. We are very satisfied with the way we left things and we want to hear the next words, the next stages, from Warsaw," Fried said.

Washington and Warsaw began talks about Poland housing missiles for the defense shield in May last year, but the negotiations have been slowed by demands from Poland for substantial aid to modernize its armed forces.

A deal under which the Czech Republic would house the missile shield's radar base was concluded in April.

Russia is opposed to having the US missile shield on its doorstep, and public opinion in Poland and the Czech Republic is broadly opposed to the defensive system.
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